Drug-resistant superbug emerges in Travis County


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Public Health on Friday urged immediate action to minimize the spread of a drug-resistant superbug that has emerged in Travis County.

According to researchers, the antibiotic-resistant organism is a local public health threat. APH investigated 37 cases of Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae — or CRE — at Austin-area medical facilities in 2017, with 18 of those being Travis County residents.

According to Dr. Phil Huang, the Health Authority Medical Director of Austin Public Health, there were 26 cases of CRE in 2018.

“Healthy people usually do not get CRE infections – they usually happen to patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare settings,” the Centers for Disease Control wrote on its website about CRE. Patients who use ventilators, catheters or those who take antibiotics for a prolonged period of time are most at risk, the CDC said.

Individuals can make sure to wash their hands to keep CRE at bay, and doctors should prescribe the appropriate antibiotic for certain issues, APH said.

Since 2015, the number of cases and the incidence rate of CRE in Travis County have increased. In the November/December issue of the Travis County Medical Society Journal, APH summarizes local data on the growing issue of the organism in Travis County.

CRE are associated with high mortality rates (up to 40-50 percent in some studies) and have the potential to spread widely. They are considered to be one of the top three urgent drug-resistant organisms in the world today.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 2 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant organisms, which kill about 23,000 people each year. 

Information on CRE and antibiotic resistance:

  • CRE can be transmitted from person to person on unwashed hands and medical devices.
  • Patients at highest risk include those in hospitals and nursing homes and those with long-term antibiotic use, compromised immune systems or invasive devices.
  • Antibiotic use is the single most important factor in antibiotic resistance. The CDC estimates that 30-50 percent of all antibiotics prescribed are either unnecessary or inappropriate.
  • Fluoroquinolones like Cipro are not the best choice for treatment of uncomplicated urinary tract infections (UTIs) in Travis County.
  • Most UTIs are caused by E. coli, and Nitrofurantoin and Cephalexin are more effective at killing E.coli than Cipro.
  • Cipro promotes drug-resistant organisms like the CRE.
  • Additionally, the FDA issued several warnings against fluoroquinolones in 2018.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information on CRE.

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