Drug treatment eliminates 'nightmare bacteria' colonies in people, researchers find

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Particular kinds of antibiotics are effective in eliminating colonies of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae in asymptomatic carriers of the deadly bacteria, according to newly published research.

The two-year study involved 152 patients of a hospital in Israel. Of these, 50 received orally administered, nonabsorbable antibiotics for a maximum of 60 days. They took either gentamicin or colistin, or a combination of the two.

The antibiotics had a 44% success rate for eradicating CRE colonization, according to the researchers. The colistin had the highest success rate, at 50%. Among the control group, only 7% of the patients had their CRE colonization eradicated.

“Oral antibiotic treatment with nonabsorbable drugs to which CRE is susceptible appears to be an effective and safe for eradication of CRE colonization and, thereby, may reduce patient-to-patient transmission and incidence of clinical infection with this difficult-to-treat organism,” the researchers wrote.

Eliminating colonization also improved mortality rates, the team noted. The mortality rate was 17% among patients whose colonization was eradicated, while it was 49% among the others.

This high mortality rate tracks with alerts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which warned that nearly half of those with CRE bloodstream infections die. The CDC has identified CRE as an urgent public health threat, with nursing facilities among the settings at greatest risk.

Findings of the Israeli study appear in this month's issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.