Warning over 'potential threat' of antibiotic resistant superbug
Originally published on newstalk
The Health Service Executive (HSE) says CPE normally lies harmlessly in the gut, and for most patients it never causes any illness.
The HSE estimates there are "probably" in the region of 2,000 people in Ireland carrying CPE.
It says hospitals are working on lists of people to contact, but do not have an exact figure they need to write to.
Last year, 433 new people were found to be carrying CPE here.
It is a relatively recent global health problem, and a number of different kinds of CPE have been introduced and have spread in the healthcare system in recent years.
The HSE says it has committed resources and clinical support to help reduce the spread of CPE, and to manage healthcare-associated infections.
"The HSE with support from the Department of Health has authorised hospital groups to commence recruitment of additional laboratory staff to enhance detection of CPE.
"Better detection of CPE is a critical step in controlling spread of CPE. The HSE has also committed resources to enhance reference laboratory services to support tracking of the spread of CPE," it says.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) for CPE was established by the health minister in October 2017.
An Expert Group, which includes patient representatives, provided advice on the question of communication with patients who are designated as CPE 'contacts' in July 2018.
A patient who is a CPE contact is defined as someone who has shared a ward or clinical area with someone who has been found to be carrying CPE.
The HSE adds: "There is about a one in 20 chance that someone who is designated a contact will become a carrier of CPE.
"There is about a one in 400 chance that they might get a serious CPE infection at some time in the future.
"CPE infection can be serious but there are antibiotics that can be used to treat CPE infection."
CPE patients are already informed while in hospital.
Up until now, patients who had left hospital before they were identified as contacts were informed on their return to that hospital.
However, if they did not come back to hospital they may not have been informed.
The HSE says in the absence of defined best practice internationally, the Expert Group advised that these patients be informed.
Those patients who have been discharged before being informed will be contacted once hospitals have identified all such cases.
Professor Martin Cormican, HSE lead for antimicrobial resistance, says: "It is important to say that only a small number of the people who are CPE contacts will carry CPE.
For most of those patients who do carry CPE it will live harmlessly in the gut along with the many other gut bugs we all carry.
"However the information that they are CPE Contacts is important if they have to go back into hospital in the future."
"CPE infection is very uncommon, even in people who carry CPE if they are reasonably well and not in a hospital.
"It is important also to say that for those people who get CPE infection, there are antibiotics that work to treat CPE infection."