CRE bacteria: What you should know

Preventing the spread of CRE and other antibiotic-resistant infections begins with practicing good hand hygiene and using antibiotics only when necessary.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) are strains of bacteria that are resistant to an antibiotic class (carpabenem) used to treat severe infections. CRE are also resistant to most other commonly used antibiotics and in some cases to all available antibiotics.

Often called superbugs, antibiotic-resistant bacteria can cause infections including lung (pneumonia), urinary tract and skin infections. CRE superbugs can spread and share their antibiotic-resistant qualities with healthy bacteria in your body. These superbugs can cause infections if they get into your bladder, blood or other areas where they don't belong. When an infection happens, it's difficult, if not impossible, to treat effectively.

Who's at risk?

Your risk of CRE infections may be higher if you are staying in the hospital, need help with bathing and other daily life routines, need devices such as breathing machines (ventilators) or catheters, or have serious illnesses. Taking long courses of certain antibiotics also can increase your risk.

CRE-related infections are associated with high rates of death (mortality). CRE-related infections have often caused outbreaks in health care settings.

CRE prevention

The most important way to prevent the spread of CRE and other antibiotic-resistant infections is to practice good hand-washing. Wash your hands often using soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Check that anyone who is providing your care also washes his or her hands often. Keeping healthy lifestyle habits such as eating a proper diet and getting enough exercise and sleep also can reduce your risk of illness.

Also avoid overusing and misusing antibiotics, such as taking antibiotics when they're not the appropriate treatment. Antibiotics are designed to work against infections caused by bacteria, fungi and certain parasites — not infections caused by viruses.

If you're prescribed an antibiotic, take the medication only as directed and be sure to complete the full treatment course, even if you feel better after a couple of days.

Staff in health care facilities are also encouraged to:

  • Follow proper contact precautions when putting on and removing gowns and gloves
  • Minimize the use of invasive devices such as urinary catheters
  • Have in place appropriate infection control precautions when CRE are identified, such as ensuring that people with CRE are in private hospital rooms, wearing gowns and gloves when caring for them, and washing hands before and after providing care to them
  • Use and prescribe antibiotics appropriately
Feb. 24, 2021 See more In-depth