Can ya just make it simple for me, Doc?  How do you expect me to understand what you are talking about when I can’t even pronounce some of the words you’ve got written down?  Good patient.  Ask questions until you understand.  It’s your treatment after all.

So, in layman’s terms, when talking about carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, we can refer to it as CRE, and we can just say it’s really nasty.  OK.  Maybe we can be a little more descriptive.  In addition to nasty, it can be lethal, and worst of all, it’s darn near impossible to kill.  Like I said, nasty.

The ironic thing about this bacterium is that it lives in healthy people’s digestive tracts.  That’s not a problem.  It becomes an issue when this guy somehow gets into some other part of your body.  People who are susceptible to this kind of migration are those being treated for health issues using urinary catheters, intravenous catheters, or surgery. Therefore, it is most often seen in patients who are in and out of hospitals and those dealing with acute care and long term care facilities.

Irony number two is that these bad boys have become resistant to antibiotics.  That’s why this bacterium is so hard to kill. As a matter of fact, one of the biggest crises facing the public health system, around the world, is the increasing resistance that germs display toward antibiotic treatment. We find that even the carbapenem antibiotics, I mean, “last resort” medications, cannot control or eradicate the antibiotic resistant strains.

Irony number three is that the more antibiotics we use, the more resistant the bad germs get.  And the harder they are to treat.  And that is just as important to you as to the sick person being treated.  You could be next.

Let’s quickly take a look at one really interesting attribute of CRE before we move on.  Not just nasty, but sinister as well.  This guy can actually pass on his drug resistance to other neighboring bacteria.  Now we have two untreatable germs!  And this CRE is spreading so urgent action is required.  According the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) we are still ahead of the point of no return in the United States.  We can control this.  But it’s going to take an effort on everyone’s part.  Healthcare professionals, and the public.

Here is what we all need to do. Tell your doctor if you have previously been hospitalized. Follow the doctor’s instructions.  Trust him.  Don’t ask him for medications he doesn’t recommend.  He’s the doctor, not you.  Don’t take any antibiotics that weren’t prescribed for you.  That includes not taking ones that were prescribed for you last year for another illness.  They don’t work that way.  Follow the doctor’s instructions for taking the prescribed meds.  Take it all.  Every single dose.  Take it on time.  Wash your hands and cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough.  And make sure that those who are taking care of you, including that doctor, wash their hands too!

But most of all, ask questions.  You need to know what they are doing to you and why.  Be an informed patient!

Information for this blog was taken from the CDC Vital Signs report March 2013:  CRE: The ‘nightmare bacteria’