Public health emergency declared over CPE superbug

Outbreaks have occurred in eight healthcare facilities here

Public health emergency declared over CPE superbug

Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) | Image: National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases

The Health Minister Simon Harris is to convene the National Public Health Emergency Team in response to the CPE superbug.

Carbapenemase Producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE) has been declared as a public health emergency.

This means it is managed in line with the health plans previously put in place for influenza.

CPE is the newest strain of 'superbugs', or bacteria that are hard to kill with antibiotics.

The Department of Health says it is a "particular problem" in hospital settings.

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) says patients whose care requires devices like ventilators, catheters and those who are taking long courses of certain antibiotics are most at risk for CRE infections.

Minister Harris says: "We have seen a rapid and worrying increase in the incidence of CPE in Ireland, with a significant increase in numbers of cases of CPE in recent years.

"Known outbreaks have occurred in eight healthcare facilities in Ireland resulting in high costs and bed closures.

"International experience indicates that CPE and Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) need to be tackled at national level."

'Serious threat to patient safety'

He says a National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) will be convened next week.

"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."

The chief medical officer with the Health Service Executive (HSE), Dr Tony Holohan, stated: "I have examined this issue, in conjunction with the National Patient Safety Office, and concluded that the patient safety issues are so important that this CPE public health emergency requires a co-ordinated whole system response."

The World Health Organization (WHO), Centre for Disease Control and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) all identify that infections with CPE are a serious threat to patient safety due to their resistance to multiple antimicrobials.

This means there are very few therapeutic options which to treat infected patients.