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New superbug is on the rise in our hospitals

Four new cases of a hospital superbug, which can cause dangerous infections in vulnerable patients, have been detected here in the past month.

The bug, which is resistant to some antibiotics, can hit the kidneys, wounds and blood of patients.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) is to review all critical care units to assess the prevalence of the infection.

The bug CRE (Carbapenem Resistant Enterobacteriaceae) lives in the bowel and five cases were detected in Irish hospitals earlier this year.

The independent European journal Eurosurveillance has now confirmed that "as of July 20, 2011 an additional four cases" of the superbug had been found.

The nine cases are the first reported cases of this strain of CRE in Ireland and the HPSC has described the outbreak as "dramatically changing the epidemiology of CRE in Ireland".

CRE cases have been notifiable in Ireland since March but to date there has been no national compulsory screening programme.

Five cases were detected between March and June in patients who had all undergone complex stomach surgery.


One patient later died from "complications of a gastro- intestinal haemorrhage not related to infection".

The four new cases were found in St Vincent's hospital in Dublin and the Mid Western Regional hospital in Limerick, St John's Hospital, Ennis General Hospital and Nenagh General Hospital.

None of the patients had been treated at a healthcare facility outside the country in the previous 12 months and so had not picked up the bug abroad.

The superbug was first found in Turkey three years ago and since then outbreaks have been reported in France, Germany and the UK, Argentina, Lebanon, Israel Morocco and Tunisia.

The HPSC has announced plans for a new study to detect how common the bug is in hospital intensive care units in this country.

The superbug is detected through a laboratory swab.

Dr Fidelma Fitzpatrick, the HSE's clinical lead on healthcare association infections, explained that up to recently most cases of CRE were associated with travel to countries where it was more common.

However, this year it had been detected in a small number of Irish patients who had not travelled abroad.