Carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE) or carbapenemase-producing enterobacteriaceae (CPE) is a rare kind of E. coli infection that is resistant to antibiotics. In fact it is resistant to the carbapenem class of antibiotics which are known as the last resort for this type of infection. The spread of CRE has dramatically progressed in the world since it was first observed in 2001. Cases have been mostly found in the Mediterranean and southern European countries – Greece, Italy and quickly spread to Turkey and France.
A case has now been found in the United States. A 49 year old Pennsylvania woman presented the presence of this rare kind of E. coli infection, the first known case of its kind in the United States.
The CDC and the Pennsylvania Department of Health mobilized immediately to investigate the case and to trace contacts the patient may have had to see whether the bacteria had spread.
The woman is now safe. But the case is of concern. Superbugs also referred to as the Nightmare Bacteria by the CDC (Center for Disease Control). Superbugs prove to be be the ultimate challenge to the world’s medical community.
Hospitals are primary transmission sites for CRE-based infections. Researchers found environmental reservoirs of CRE bacteria in ICU sinks and drains. Despite multiple attempts to sterilize these sinks and drains, using detergents and steam, hospital staff were unsuccessful in getting rid of the CRE bacteria. Due to the bacteria’s resistance to cleaning measures, staff should take extreme precaution in maintaining sterile environments in hospitals not yet infected with the CRE-resistant bacteria.
What can you do to protect yourself from the E. coli Superbug?
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm soapy water before and after handling food and using the bathroom.
- Clean and sanitize utensils, cutting boards and counter tops often.
- Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating (even the ones you peel or those that are “pre-washed”).
- Drink only pasteurized milk, juice and cider.
- Use a meat thermometer to ensure your meat is cooked completely. Don’t judge if meat is cooked by how it looks, because hamburger can turn brown before it has reached a safe internal temperature of 71oC (160oF).
- Place raw meats on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so the juices cannot drip onto other foods.
- Have separate cutting boards for raw meat, vegetables and cooked foods.
- Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Bacteria grows fastest in the “danger zone”, which is between 4°C and 60°C (40°F to 140°F).
What are the symptoms of E. Coli infection?
Symptoms of intestinal infection include diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever. More severe cases can lead to bloody diarrhea, dehydration, or even kidney failure. People with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, young children, and older adults are at increased risk for developing these complications.
The Ultimate Concern
With the irresponsible overuse of antibiotics made by the medical community in the past years, we now face Superbugs that cannot be eliminated. Should a Superbug begin to spread out of control we may come face to face with the Ultimate Nightmare Scenario.