Illinois ground zero for CRE in the US, suggest Chicago physicians

A family of drug-resistant bacteria previously referred to as "nightmare bacteria" by former CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, is on the rise around the world. Illinois may be ground zero for the deadly pathogen in the United States, according to Chicago-based physicians cited in an NBC Chicago report.

Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae is one of 12 priority pathogens identified by the World Health Organization for which the creation of new antibiotics is urgently needed. CRE was one of three drug-resistant strains on the WHO list designated as a critical priority.

In 2013, Illinois saw one of the largest outbreaks of CRE in the nation's history with 39 patients sickened with the drug-resistant bacteria at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge. Two of the patients died. Nationally, Illinois has seen more cases of CRE than any other state since the bacteria was first detected in the U.S. in 2009, according to data compiled by the CDC.

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"We have a very robust medical system. We have many large hospitals," said Sameer Patel, MD, director of antimicrobial stewardship at Lurie Children's Hospital, according to the report. "Whenever you have more medical care, you're going to have more use of antibiotics, and therefore more resistance to organisms."

CRE typically infects hospitalized patients whose immune systems have been compromised. The bacteria carry a high level of resistance to antibiotics, making infections difficult to treat. One report, cited by the CDC, found the bacteria contributes to the death of as many as 50 percent of patients who become infected.

To learn more about CRE, click here.

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