Search

Newham Hospital doctor calls for action over deadly new superbug resistant to antibiotics

PUBLISHED: 07:00 11 May 2017 | UPDATED: 15:24 11 May 2017

Public Health England says it is working with hospitals to improve detection and control of the superbug. Picture: PA Wire/Lynne Cameron

Public Health England says it is working with hospitals to improve detection and control of the superbug. Picture: PA Wire/Lynne Cameron

PA Wire/PA Images

A doctor at Newham University Hospital has warned an almost untreatable superbug “more deadly that MRSA” poses a grave threat to patients and needs urgent government action.

Superbug: There have been 21 positive cases of CPE reported at Newham University Hospital in Plaistow since April 2014. Picture: David MirzoeffSuperbug: There have been 21 positive cases of CPE reported at Newham University Hospital in Plaistow since April 2014. Picture: David Mirzoeff

At least 31 people in London have died in the last three years after being infected with the bacteria carbapenemase-producing enterobacteriaceae - or CPE, an investigation has revealed.

The bacteria are immune to nearly all drugs and are likely to spread through hospitals if urgent preventative action is not taken, according to infection experts.

Dr David Wareham, a clinical senior lecturer at Queen Mary University of London’s Blizard Institute and an honorary microbiologist at Barts Health and Newham University Hospital, said CPE needs to be addressed urgently.

“We have quite a significant problem in London,” he said.

“There are ongoing outbreaks in hospitals, it’s moving around between trusts, it’s imported, it’s in the community. It’s definitely only going to get worse.”

Some 40 to 50 per cent of people who develop a blood stream infection from CPE die and cases across London are rising, an investigation by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) has found.

Although the CPE bug is more dangerous than MRSA it is not mandatory for NHS trusts to report outbreaks to Public Health England (PHE), so it is not known exactly how many cases are occurring at each London hospital trust.

But data gathered by TBIJ using Freedom of Information requests has shown there have been 21 positive cases of CPE reported at Newham University Hospital in Plaistow since April 2014.

Some patients treated for the deadly superbug became resistant to colistin - an antibiotic of “last resort” only used when there are no other treatment options left.

PHE admits that it does not know where the CPE infections are coming from or how many people are dying and that it wants to improve monitoring.

Professor Alan Johnson, head of the Department of Healthcare Associated Infection and Antibiotic Resistance at PHE, said: “We are working closely with the NHS to further improve data collection and surveillance and have also published advice to help hospitals in detecting, managing and controlling infections caused by CPE.”

Hospitals have a duty to report infections from other superbugs, such as MRSA and C.Difficile, and will soon have to publish E.coli rates. But there is no such obligation for CPE.

Microbiologists across the country say it is imperative action is taken to stop CPE spreading.

They argue this can only happen if reporting of infections and related deaths is compulsory.

‘ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE AND COSTLY CLEANING BILLS’: WHY SUPERBUG IS CAUSING ALARM

• CPE stands for carbapenemase-producing enterobacteriaceae.

• The bacteria is so deadly that patients found carrying it have to be treated in side rooms at hospitals so it doesn’t spread.

• But carrying CPE does not mean patients automatically go on to develop an infection.

• When the bugs are found, hospital wards have to be closed – sometimes for months - for expensive deep cleaning. The bill at one London hospital trust ran to £1million.

• The bacteria are immune to nearly all drugs and some patients with CPE infections become resistant to colistin, an antibiotic of “last resort”.

• In London there have been 10 occasions where a patient has caught CPE because the last person to sleep in their hospital bed was carrying it.

• Poorly-designed sinks which allow contaminated water to splash back out of drains are thought to have played a major role in one CPE outbreak in Manchester. The same types of fittings are common in hospitals throughout the country.

Source: The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

KNOWN OUTBREAKS OF CPE SUPERBUG IN LONDON

• When the bugs are found, hospital wards have to be closed – sometimes for months - for expensive deep cleaning. The bill at one London hospital trust ran to £1million.

• A ward at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel was temporarily closed last Christmas following an outbreak of CPE and 45 patients were isolated as a precaution. No one died as a result.

• Twenty-one people died during a CPE outbreak lasting 10 months at Imperial College London NHS Foundation Trust in west London, although the hospital said all the patients were very ill with other medical problems and none died as a direct result of infection.

• At King’s College Hospital Trust in south London 44 people became infected with CPE between September 2015 and November 2016. Ten of these patients died, although the infection may not have directly caused their death.


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Newham Recorder. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Newham Recorder