HSE says CPE carriers ‘don’t have to live like a hermit’ as report launched in Limerick

Fintan Walsh


Fintan Walsh

Prof Paul Burke, Prof Colette Cowan, Dr Robert Spencer and HSE’s Prof Martin Cormican Picture: Liam Burke/Press 22

Prof Paul Burke, Prof Colette Cowan, Dr Robert Spencer and HSE’s Prof Martin Cormican Picture: Liam Burke/Press 22

THE HSE official responsible for overseeing antimicrobial resistance in Ireland has expressed “sorrow” for the families of deceased patients involved in an intensive superbug investigation.  

On Tuesday morning, the UL Hospitals released a 60-page report which revealed findings of an internal and external examination into the deaths of 74 superbug-positive patients between 2009 and 2017. 

It concluded that the CPE superbug was a factor in eight deaths. In an internal review, launched in June 2017, found that CPE contributed directly to three deaths, and was a factor in a further 10 deaths.

An external investigation, led by expert UK microbiologist Dr Robert C Spencer, had a contradictory narrative, showing that CPE was a factor in five deaths.

After this, UL Hospitals chief clinical director Prof Paul Burke contacted Dr Spencer to “reconcile” findings belonging to both the internal and external probes.

The final report concluded that CPE was a factor in eight deaths and did not play a direct role in any patient deaths.

Speaking at a press conference at UHL this Tuesday, Prof Martin Cormican, the HSE’s lead for antimicrobial resistance, said that there is a very small risk to those carrying the bug.

CPE- carbapenemese producing entereobacteriaceae- is a bug that has developed the power to be resistant to the most effective antibiotics, proving to be a grave challenge to acute hospital settings and human health. Those who are carriers (or colonised) will have the bug resting harmlessly in the gut. But there is a 50% chance of mortality if there is a bloodstream infection.

“My first comment, as others have done, is to express sorrow to the families of the deceased. We have all lost loved ones at one time or another. It is distressing and then to part of a review may cause some people concern.

“But it is also very important for the people who are colonised with CPE to know that the advice we have previously given you, that the risk it is to you in your daily life outside the hospital is very, very small. You don’t have to live like a hermit, you don’t have to avoid your family. You can have a normal, social life.”

The hospital found “some shortcomings” in the documentation and communication to patients and next-of-kin of superbug status. Likewise, there were shortcomings in informing the status of deceased patients to the coroner.

UL Hospitals Group CEO, Prof Cowan says she hopes the report’s publication will “contribute to a better informed public conversation around multi-drug resistant organisms and the real risks they pose to public health”. 

- Pick up this weekend’s Limerick Leader for full analysis of superbug report