A total of nine new patients with CPE were detected In the week from December 18 – 24, 2017 and there were ten new patients with CPE detected in the week from December 25 to December 31, 2017.
The number of cases of Carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE) – a superbug resistant to most or all antibiotics – almost doubled in 2016 and is estimated to increase by a further third in 2017, according to the Department of Health.
The Department has warned that CPE are an established threat to human health, particularly in hospital settings. It said the spread of this superbug in hospitals could lead to the closure of beds, wards and units removing thereby, essential capacity to provide services, to admit patients from Emergency Departments and to address waiting lists effectively.
It stated that public health and microbiological advice indicated that the opportunity remained for effective interventions to be taken which could protect patients, protect hospital capacity from unplanned closures and ultimately lead to a halting or reduction in the spread of this superbug.
CPE is carried in the bowel and can cause blood stream infection in people who are vulnerable, such as the elderly and those with low immunity.
CPE are gram-negative bacteria that are resistant to most, and sometimes all, available antibiotics. They are shed in the faeces and transmitted by direct and indirect contact.
A period of four weeks or more may elapse between that contact that results in acquisition of the organism and the time at which CPE becomes detectable in the faeces of the contact. More than half of all patients who develop blood stream infections with CPE die as a result of their infection.
A National Public Health Emergency Team – chaired by the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan – was convened last October by the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, as a public health response to CPE in Ireland.