Community hospitals in the southeastern United States are reporting that the number of highly-contagious, drug-resistant bacteria, carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) cases have increased fivefold over the past five years. According to a study published by Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, the CRE infections have resulted in a nearly 50 percent death rate. The World Health Organization considers CRE "one of the three greatest threats to human health."

Researchers found that almost all of the 305 CRE infections identified in the study were health care-related. Greater use of broad-spectrum antibiotics is one of the factors associated with the growing number of CRE infections. Another factor is increased transmission between long-term acute care facilities and community hospitals.

Experts agree that "immediate and significant action" is required to limit the transmission of these germs, specifically infection control to limit person-to-person transmission. The challenge is that funding and staffing shortages often stand in the way of proper prevention techniques.

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed a CRE toolkit to help protect patients and prevent transmission.The toolkit is available here.

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