We bear bad news, but first: have you swaddled your children in a fleece blanket, so their hair tufts out of the opening just enough to remind you how fragile and intricate and precious life truly is? Good. Medical officials are currently monitoring the proliferation of strains of potent antibiotic-resistant bacteria that kill 50% of the patients they infect. "These are nightmare bacteria that present a triple-threat," Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention told USA Today, referring to carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae. "They're resistant to nearly all antibiotics. They have high mortality rates, killing half of people with serious infections. And they can spread their resistance to other bacteria."
In 2001 around 1.2% of Enterobacteriaceae, the most common family of bacteria, were resistant to carbapenem antibiotics, which are the strongest antibiotics available. In 2011, that percentage was 4.2%. Currently, the antibiotic-resistant bacteria thrives only in hospitals—last year 4% of all hospitals treated a CRE infection, compared with 18% of long-term, acute-care hospitals.
Costi Sifri, a physician who studies infectious disease and hospital epidemiology at the University of Virginia said that doctors have resorted to cutting out the infected tissue rather than administer worthless antibiotics, adding that the rise of CRE infections may mark the beginning of the "post-antibiotic era."
Specialists say that catheters, ventilators, and other devices inserted deep into the body should be removed as soon as possible to prevent the spread of infection, and that doctors should stop prescribing antibiotics so much: half of all antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary.
The CDC has more tips for avoiding infection (wash your hands, you're supposed to be an adult!). USA Today has a pretty nifty slideshow showing how bacteria eventually becomes resistant to antibiotics, but it's missing a slide of that inconsiderate jerk with strep throat who only took his pills for two days so he could make trivia night on Wednesday.