CRE Superbug Infections Increasing in Children: Study

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Young children are acquiring the antibiotic-resistant CRE superbug at a much higher rate than in the past, a new study shows.

What’s the problem?

October 21, 2015 – CRE bacteria is found most often in inpatient care settings (i.e., hospitals and long-term healthcare facilities) and is resistant against most antibiotic medications. As a result, about half of patients who become infected with the superbug die from resulting complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Although there is a growing body of research on CRE infection in adults, until now little has been done on the effects in children.

“No one has looked at the impact of the rise of CRE in pediatric patients in the U.S and prior to our study, there was no data outside of single institution surveys on the epidemiology of CRE in U.S. children,” said Dr. Latania Logan, lead author of the study.

For the study, which was published in this month’s edition of the CDC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases journal (PDF), a research team led by Logan looked at a nationwide database of reports from 300 microbiology laboratories to access the presence of CRE bacteria in more than 300,000 cultures obtained from children between 1999 and 2012.

The greatest increase in superbug infections were seen among critically ill children between the ages of 1 and 5 being treated in intensive care units (ICUs), with CRE rising from a 0% rate in 1999-2000 to 4.5% in 2011-2012. In all patients aged 1 to 17, the rate increased from 0% to .47% during that time period.

The type of CRE infections with the greatest increases were those of the bloodstream and lower respiratory tract, such as pneumonia, where the increases were from 0% in 1999-2000 to 3.2 and 2.3% in 2011-2012, respectively. According to Logan, this is significant because in up to half of cases where the superbug reaches the bloodstream, the patient dies from the infection.

“CRE overall are a very urgent threat not only to the United States but to the world. There are very few antibiotics available to treat these infections, and even less are available to children,” Logan said. “In our study, we found that CRE infections remain low in the pediatric population overall, but have significantly increased in number across children of all ages and in all healthcare settings.”

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