What we talk about when we talk about MDR-GNR

I’m supposed to give a talk at SHEA 2014 on “Lab Identification and Surveillance for Multidrug-Resistant Organisms” (that title is a real barn-burner, right?). I dashed off material on MRSA and VRE pretty quickly, but got bogged down fast when I hit the category of “multidrug-resistant gram negative rods (MDR-GNR)”. Why? Two major reasons: (1) MDR-GNRs encompass a vast array of different species, each with its own bag of tricks, and (2) most labs are underprepared to accurately detect and characterize the most fearsome of the MDR-GNRs (e.g. carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (CRE)). Therefore, it is a major challenge to even define what we are talking about when we talk about MDR-GNRs.

One of the articles in the current special issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology drives this point home nicely. In a survey of hospitals in the SHEA Research Network, Marci Drees and colleagues tallied 14 unique definitions for MDR-Acinetobacter, 18 for MDR-Pseudomonas, and 22 for MDR-Enterobacteriaceae (that’s a lot of definitions for just 66 responding hospitals!). There was similar variation in what these hospitals did when MDR-GNRs were identified (isolation practices, cohorting, etc.), and in how equipped laboratories were to find the organisms of greatest interest (e.g. CRE). This isn’t an indictment of the hospitals or their labs, it simply reflects the fact that drug-resistance among gram-negative organisms is extraordinarily complex, and the molecular methods needed to rapidly characterize the most troublesome organisms are beyond the reach of most clinical labs.

In the absence of affordable commercial methods for detection of common MDR-GNR resistance mechanisms, we desperately need to develop a network of specialized regional referral labs that can quickly characterize pathogens submitted from clinical laboratories. Whole-genome sequencing could be introduced in such labs as a first step to wider adoption and development of automated data interpretation software. Let’s hope that the $30 million CDC budget allocation for responding to antibiotic resistance will move us in that direction.

Image from Wikipedia Commons


  1. Thanks Dan - enjoyed this one. MDR-GNR is quickly becoming an acronym minefield. CPE, CRE, CPO, CRO and on and on: http://www.micro-blog.info/2013/07/do-you-know-your-cro-from-your-cpo-from-your-cre-from-your-cpe/

    I came across a new one today in Singapore: CPCRE!

    Agree that we need to dissect the epidemiology of MDR-GNR; MDR Enterobacteriaceae are fundamentally different from MDR non-fermenters such as A. baumannii and should be treated as such.

  2. Thanks, Jon, and thanks for the link to your blog post from last year, I had missed it--I enjoy your site. As you suggest, a major reason we are stuck with the broader acronym "CRE" is that most labs don't have the capacity to tell which CR bugs are CP bugs, etc. Safe travels. Dan

  3. Thanks Dan. Delighted to hear that you enjoy the site! The feeling is most certainly mutual.

    CPCRE has been adopted by consensus across the island here in Singapore. The more I think about it, the more it works. There's a problem at the moment in that CRE and CPE are used synonymously by some (the UK tends to favour CPE and the US CRE) whereas they are, of course, technically different. I think we should consider using both CRE and CPCRE as consensus terminology throughout the world. Then you can easily as the question "is it CRE or is it CPCRE", which I think is conceptually easier than "is it CRE or CPE".


Post a Comment

Thanks for submitting your comment to the Controversies blog. To reduce spam, all comments will be reviewed by the blog moderator prior to publishing. However, all legitimate comments will be published, whether they agree with or oppose the content of the post.

Most Read Posts (Last 30 Days)