Superbug: University Hospital Limerick approves rapid test for problematic CPE

Fintan Walsh, Health Correspondent

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Fintan Walsh, Health Correspondent

A rapid for detecting the potentially-fatal CPE superbug has been trialled and approved at University Hospital Limerick

A rapid for detecting the potentially-fatal CPE superbug has been trialled and approved at University Hospital Limerick

A RAPID test kit for detecting the potentially-fatal CPE superbug has been trialled and approved at University Hospital Limerick, the UL Hospitals Group has confirmed. 

Since the first detection of CPE at UHL in 2009, which was the first ever Irish case, the multi-drug resistant bacteria has been a factor in eight deaths in the Mid-West region.

Following an external investigation by UK microbiologist Dr Robert C Spencer, it was also confirmed that no deaths were caused by CPE.

Between January and July 2018, there were 44 CPE cases and a total of 1,060 CPE contacts in the Mid-West region, according to minutes of meetings received under Freedom of Information.

Though a rapid test has been approved, it currently takes days for test results to return to UHL, a spokesperson had previously told this newspaper.

“Currently it takes two days for confirmation of a negative result and four days for a positive result. The microbiology team will contact the ward and team as early as possible if there is a provisional result to isolate the patient pending final,” a spokesperson said in August. 

Speaking on the latest development in late October, a spokesperson said: “The rapid test kit has been trialled and validated at UHL and approval to introduce same has been granted by the CEO of the UL Hospitals Group. We are currently planning how best to utilise this methodology within the context of overall bed management.”

CPE—Carbapenem-producing Enterobacteriaceae—is a multi-drug resistant family of superbugs that is resistant to a crucial group of antibiotics called carbapenems. CPE is powerful enough to withstand the strongest of last-resort antiobiotics, rendering it an increasing challenge for staff and patients in acute hospital settings across the globe. 

Dr Spencer, in his investigation, commissioned by UL Hospitals, said that the superbug crisis “threatens us with the dawn of a ‘post-antiobiotic’ era, undoing many of the gains made in public health over the last century”.