According to news reports, including one by CNN, a CRE "superbug" killed two patients and infected five more in Los Angeles. All seven were in an L.A. the hospital for an endoscopic procedure to diagnose problems with their bile duct, gall bladder or pancreas. An investigation revealed that all seven patients had been scoped with one of two endoscopes, which (apparently) weren't sterilized effectively even though sterilization protocols were followed. The sterilization procedure will have to be revised, obviously.

CRE stands for Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae, a family of bacteria that includes E. coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae. Carbapenem is an antibiotic of last resort when most other antibiotics no longer work, and Klebsiella seems to have found a way to neutralize it. So far, Klebsiella is found only in hospitals, where equipment or personnel can harbor these hard-to-transmit bugs; the wider community is not yet at significant risk. But the big danger is that Klebsiella will pass their antibiotic-neutralizing skill on to other bacteria (see this blog, Apr. 7, 2011), leading to much wider outbreaks than we've seen so far.

This little outbreak is not likely to be the last.

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