Antibiotic-resistant bacteria CPE found in five people in the Hutt Valley
Originally published on New Zealand Herald
A rare family of bacteria resistant to nearly all antibiotics has been found in five people in the Hutt Valley.
The Hutt Valley District Health Board has identified five carriers of Carbapenam Producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE) - though it says the community doesn't need to be alarmed.
Carbapenems are a group of antibiotics often used to treat complex infections, or when other antibiotics have been ineffective.
DHB infectious diseases senior medical officer Dr Matthew Kelly said the community should be aware.
"The first line of defence against any bacteria is thorough and frequent handwashing, especially after going to the toilet, and before preparing and eating food."
Two people were identified in hospital, and three in the community. In all but one person it was an incidental finding, and hadn't resulted in illness.
The one person who was ill had been successfully treated.
"We are taking the presence of CPE in the community extremely seriously," Kelly said.
"CPE is extremely rare in New Zealand, but also concerning because of its resistance to antibiotics, which is why we are alerting our community.
"We are closely managing the five patients and working with their health care professionals.
"We are contacting those people who may have been in contact with the two patients who were in hospital to provide them information about CPE.
"The bacteria can be in your gut for months to years and will usually cause no harm. There is no effective way to remove it from the gut and it may stay for longer if you take other antibiotics. The bacteria can cause infection in vulnerable people if it gets into the wrong place such as in the urine or a wound from surgery.
"In the hospital, good infection control practices are an essential and everyday part of health care. The silver lining to this cloud is that we have identified these cases through our standard screening procedures and have been able to manage this situation."
In New Zealand most previous cases have been linked with travel overseas. This cluster of cases appears to have originated in the community. However, Hutt Valley DHB has not been able to confirm the source of infection.
Concern about the continuing development and spread of antibiotic resistance is worldwide.
There had been few new classes of antibiotics in the past 20 years and unless that changed, health professionals would encounter more bacteria that couldn't be treated effectively, Kelly said.
"Antibiotics save lives but we must use them responsibly and wisely."
Infections with CPE are preventable and extremely rare, and the presence of CPE in the gut does not mean the carrier will get sick.
CPE is detected on standard microbiology tests requested by health professionals.
Additional screening is also carried out as part of everyday care in hospital.
There have been an increasing number of CPE cases identified in NZ and so far this year there have been around 50 cases. Most people found to have CPE in New Zealand became infected overseas, particularly if they had been in an overseas hospital.
CPE is found in the gut bacteria of a carrier and is transferred by touch to surfaces, skin or food when that person hasn't washed their hands properly after going to the toilet. Someone else can then unknowingly transfer the bacteria to their mouth.