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For more information about carbapenem- resistant Enterobacteriaceae, commonly called CRE, go to cdc.gov/HAI/organisms/cre/.

Trident Health says 17 patients tested positive in 2012 for a deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are calling a “nightmare.”

If carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae — or CRE — enters the bloodstream, it kills up to half the patients it infects, the CDC reported.

Dale Haselden, Trident Health’s director of infection prevention, said she is not aware that any of the 17 patients who tested positive for CRE within the system died.

“We just really started seeing it in our area of the country in about the last year or so,” Haselden said. “Most of the strains that we have seen are sensitive to some of the antibiotics.”

Trident Health spokesman Bob Behanian said none of the patients contracted the bacteria from another Trident patient or from inside the hospitals. Each of the 17 who tested positive for it were screened when they were admitted.

CRE is not a problem unique to Trident. CDC Director Tom Frieden sounded a national alarm this week, calling on health care facilities to step up measures to block the bacteria.

“CRE are nightmare bacteria,” Frieden said in statement on the CDC’s website. “Our strongest antibiotics don’t work and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections.”

At Roper Hospital, one patient tested positive for CRE in the past year, but that patient chose not to stay at the hospital, said Dr. Timothy West, chief of infection prevention at Roper St. Francis Healthcare.

Patients who are chronically ill, have been in and out of hospitals and have taken multiple antibiotics are more susceptible to it, West said.

Medical University Hospital did not release its 2012 data to The Post and Courier.

According to the CDC, there are more than 70 different strains of bacteria that fall under the Enterobacteriaceae umbrella, and most of them are considered normal bacteria commonly found in the human digestive system. But some of these strains have developed super-resistance to the strongest antibiotics on the market.

These resistant strains have been most prevalent in health care facilities in the Northeast, but the federal government has tracked the bacteria to facilities in 42 states, including South Carolina.

Four percent of U.S. hospitals treated a patient who tested positive for the bacteria during the first six months of 2012, according to the CDC.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control requires hospitals to report all CRE cases. In 2011, 26 cases of the bacteria were reported in South Carolina. A DHEC spokesman said 2012 data is not yet available.

“It seems like all of a sudden it’s blossoming,” Haselden said. “It’s up to hospitals and health care facilities to try to contain it as much as possible.”

The CDC recommends that hospitals encourage hand washing, isolate patients who test positive for the bacteria and educate health care workers, among other precautions.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.