GREENSBORO -- A so-called "nightmare bacteria" has hospitals across the country on alert. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out a warning this week about the potentially fatal bacteria called CRE. It's been on the rise over the past decade and it's results are fatal for up to half of the patients who get bloodstream infections.
"We do tell them how grave the illness will be, that we may have a chance of treating it but our choices are quite limited," said Dr. Cynthia Snider, an infectious disease doctor at Moses Cone.
The family of bacteria is found in the colon and intestines and can occasionally cause infections. CRE is particularly resistant to, and hard to treat with, conventional antibiotics.
"It's really also if they've been exposed to a lot of different antibiotics," said Snider.
The bacteria is found in hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities but it typically doesn't affect the average healthy patient.
"The people who get these infections really tend to be those that have other medical problems," said Dr. Christopher Ohl, an infectious disease expert at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
Its symptoms, though sometimes slight, can be associated with patients who use catheters or ventilators.
"It would be the same as if you had a really bad ventilator associated pneumonia, or sometimes it's a bloodstream infection, or maybe a urinary tract infection," said Snider.
Though scary, doctors say, the infections can be treatable, but it's tricky.
"Very rarely, there may be no antibiotics that are known to man that can treat it," said Ohl.
Medical centers treating the infections are using, "meticulous handwashing and wearing of gloves and gowns when going into those patients rooms," said Ohl.
Only six states require health care providers to report cases of CRE to public health authorities but North Carolina is not one of them.
"Some of this is being driven by inappropriate antibiotic use, so in the bigger scope if you're having a cold and going to your doctor, maybe don't always ask for antibiotics," said Snider.