Generally speaking the subject of antibiotic resistance is not new to the medical community. Indeed, the healthcare community has already contended with other antibiotic resistant bacteria, such as Methicillian-resistant Staphylcoccus (MRSA) in the 1990s. First identified in the early 1980s, the reality of antibiotic resistance grew out of several factors. The over-prescrption of antibiotics by doctors, the failure of patients to complete full courses of treatment, the use of antibiotics in agriculture, and their use as home disinfectants are all factors that at once dramatically increased the amount of antibiotics in the environment while providing the bacteria opportunities to evolve resistance to known antibiotics.
Although antibiotic resistance in general is not new, what is a new and increasing focus of concern are a family of antibiotic resistant Gram-negative bacteria known as Carbapenums-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE). The resistance of these bacteria to a class of antibiotics known as Carbapenums -- the antibiotic of last resort -- is what makes the current wave of antiobiotic resistance particularly troubling. With limited tools to fight the disease, doctors have no choice but to turn to treatments that, much like chemotherapy, can harm healthy body systems in an effort to rid the patient of disease. Yet, with no treatment (and sometimes even with treatment), CDC data indicates that 50 percent of patients infected with CRE in their bloodstream do not survive. As of 2013 the CDC reported that CRE bacteria were responsible for 23,000 deaths.
First identified in the US in 2001, CRE infections now have been documented in all fifty states. Infections in the US have been concentrated in healthcare facilities, typically among patients who are already susceptible to infection. The concern is that without urgent action to control CRE bacteria they will begin to affect society at large, including those who are not otherwise vulnerable to infection due to existing medical conditions.