State must stop superbug’s spread in hospitals, microbiologists warn
Society of Clinical Microbiologists calls for emergency national CRE outbreak team
More than 2,000 people at Tallaght Hospital have come into contact with CRE since an outbreak there began 18 months ago.
The State must act quickly to prevent a highly resistant superbug from becoming endemic in the hospital system, a medical group has warned.
The Society of Clinical Microbiologists said urgent action was needed to stem the spread of the CRE superbug, which has been growing increasingly common in Irish hospitals. It called for an emergency national outbreak team with dedicated resources as well as a long-term strategic focus on the problem.
An outbreak of the superbug at St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny last month forced the closure of two wards and up to 17 beds. Four patients in the hospital’s surgical ward were infected with the CRE superbug, which has a mortality rate of up to 50 per cent among vulnerable patients. In recent weeks, the first case of “pan-resistant” CRE was reported in the US involving a female patient whose infection was resistant to all 26 antibiotics approved by the Federal Drug Administration.
The president of the Society of Clinical Microbiologists, Dr Eleanor McNamara, told the Medical Independent the superbug represented a “major” patient safety issue and that the window to prevent it becoming endemic in the hospital system was “diminishing rapidly”.
Family of germs
Carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE) are a family of germs that are difficult to treat because they have high levels of resistance to antibiotics. Beds that are found to have been occupied by carriers have to be left empty while the ward is deep-cleaned with hydrogen peroxide.
National data shows the number of cases grew from 48 in 2013 to 81 in 2014 and 140 in 2015. There were 132 cases in the first eight months of last year.
More than 2,000 people at Tallaght Hospital have come into contact with CRE since an outbreak there began 18 months ago. Some 142 patients were found to be carriers. In Limerick, CRE has been associated with 27 deaths over a six-year period.
Because of the growing problem posed by CRE, new rules for the recording of cases were introduced this year. All microbiology laboratories have to report to the HSE’s health protection surveillance centre the number of patients infected with the bug, and the first quarterly report on CRE will be published later this year.