Twice as many Minnesotans were infected by superbugs called Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae last year than the previous year.
CREs are on the rise in Minnesota and across much of the nation.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Tuesday that CRE infections in the U.S. have quadrupled in the past decade, as some species of the digestive system bacteria have become resistant to powerful, last-ditch antibiotics.
State Health Department epidemiologist Kristin Shaw said in 2011 Minnesota had 44 CRE infections among hospitalized patients. That figure more than doubled in 2012, rising to 90 cases.
"These organisms are resistant to most available antibiotics and they are associated with a high mortality rate," Shaw said. "CRE kill up to half of patients who get blood stream infections from them."
Assistant State Epidemiologist Richard Danila says CREs are not as prevalent as more recognizable antibiotic-resistant infections, such as staph, but CREs are a bigger threat to patients because even the strongest antibiotics frequently don't work on them.
"The issue here is you're basically at the end of your rope for any treatment options," Danila said. "Putting it in perspective, even though it may have fewer cases, it's a bigger problem in terms of impact on individual patients."
Public health officials are urging health care facilities to protect patients against CRE by doing more to do detect the infections and by taking measures to prevent the bacteria from spreading within hospitals.