There is on average one new case of the superbug CPE every day, according to latest data from the Health Service Executive.
There were 365 newly detected patients with CPE by mid-November this year.
The figures are outlined in a recent presentation by Prof Martin Cormican, the HSE National Lead for Health Care Associated Infection and Antimicrobial Resistance, published on the HSE’s website.
The bug carbapenemase-producing enterobacteriaceae (CPE), also referred to as carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE), is the newest “superbug” that is hard to kill with antibiotics. It is carried in the bowel and can cause blood stream infection in the elderly and those with low immunity.
Human infections with CPE are associated with poorer patient outcomes and mortality rates exceeding 40-50 per cent, and higher hospital costs.
Tallaght Hospital reported 97 cases of the superbug from the start of the year until the end of October.
There were 47 cases of CPE recorded in the East Hospital Group, which includes St Vincent’s, St Luke’s in Kilkenny and the Mater while there were 39 cases at the University of Limerick Hospital Group over the same period.
The RCSI Hospital Group, which includes Beaumont, Cavan General Hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda, reported 18 cases.
“The numbers detected by some hospitals suggest that it is highly likely that they do not have effective systems for detection,” the presentation states.
“Until every hospital is doing a reasonable level of screening we do not know how bad the situation is.” The presentation adds “CPE is very widely disseminated”.
The head of the HSE Tony O’Brien recently warned the Government that new superbugs are leading to avoidable deaths in hospitals across the State and could undermine the sustainability of the entire healthcare system if not tackled.
Minister for Health Simon Harris convened the National Public Health Emergency Team to deal with the threat of the superbug in October.
Mr Harris said CPE had been declared as a public health emergency, so that it could be managed in line with the public health plans which had been previously put in place for influenza. It will run for three years until 2020.
“This group will provide advice, guidance, support and direction on the surveillance and management of CPE at national level; the development and implementation of a strategy to contain CPE and provide oversight.”
Mr Harris said it was estimated that antimicrobial-resistant infection was responsible for about 25,000 deaths a year in the EU.
The expert group has had five meetings to date. Minutes of the latest meeting state its role is to review current advice and guidance on CPE, prevention and control management “so as to identify gaps and update and provide clear evidence-based expert advice”.
“Ensuring there is effective communication with key stakeholders is one of the core functions of the National Public Health Emergency Team,” the minutes add.