NCEZID Innovations: Antibiotic Resistance

Catching the silently spreading "nightmare bacteria"


When patients are admitted to healthcare facilities, they do not expect to get a serious illness in the very place they go to get better. But that is sometimes the case for patients in healthcare facilities who have developed bloodstream infections from CRE (carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae). CRE is called the “nightmare bacteria” because it kills almost half of all people who get infected. CRE is a family of bacteria often found in people’s gastrointestinal tract that has become resistant to our strongest antibiotics. Patients can be colonized with CRE, which means they carry CRE without getting an infection. These patients can still spread CRE to others as they move among hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and other facilities. During an outbreak, CRE in colonized patients goes undetected and can silently spread throughout healthcare facilities. Currently, many hospital labs do not perform colonization testing for CRE. To stop the spread of CRE in their facilities, healthcare workers need innovative solutions to detect these hidden pockets of resistant bacteria.


All regional labs in CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance Laboratory Network (AR Lab Network) are NOW PERFORMING CRE COLONIZATION TESTING FOR FACILITIES IN THEIR AREAS WHERE CRE OUTBREAKS HAVE BEEN DETECTED. Rapid testing means healthcare workers know the extent of CRE colonization in their facilities and can take steps to prevent and stop infections. Additionally, the Association of Public Health Laboratories is developing software for the AR Lab Network to share the results in real-time with both the healthcare facility and the local health department.

Bottom Line Up Front:

Patients carrying CRE can spread the bacteria without showing symptoms. Regional labs in CDC’s AR Lab Network provide testing to let hospitals know the extent of the problem.