How superbugs spread

MRSA, CRE infections can be difficult to treat

CBC News Last Updated: Feb. 4, 2014

An outbreak of the superbug Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), at a B.C. hospital has spurred concerns about the containment of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

In recent years, hospitals across Canada have braced for the possibility of similar outbreaks and have introduced infection control protocols including isolating patients and rigorous hand-washing campaigns. The graphic below shows how superbugs are passed on in a health-care setting and also explores four key types of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.


4 Superbug profiles




Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics known as beta-lactams. MRSA is passed on through skin-to-skin contact but can also be spread through bed linens, bathroom fixtures and medical equipment. The infections typically occur in hospitals and health-care facilities. If treated early, MRSA can be treated with antibiotics. [Photo: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters]

C. difficile


Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) bacteria are found in the feces. It can be passed on if a person touches an infected surface and then proceeds to touch their mouth. The bacterium can cause diarrhea as well as inflammation of the colon. In mild cases, patients do not need treatment but in severe instances, they may require medication or surgery. [Photo:CDC]



This family of bacteria is very difficult to treat and can be deadly in patients. Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), which is found in the bowels and the feces, is very resistant to many types of antibiotics. CRE typically affects patients using ventilators, urinary catheters and intravenous catheters. [Photo:CDC]



Patients with a vancomycin-resistant enterococci infection can be treated with antibiotics. Enteroccocci, found in the intestines and female genital tract, can sometimes cause infections. A VRE infection is spread through person-to-person contact. [Photo:CDC]

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