‘Number one enemy’ superbug cases double in Hong Kong’s public hospitals

Authority expands screening criteria to catch more with antibiotic-resistant infection

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 February, 2017, 10:28pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 February, 2017, 10:49pm

The number of public hospital patients suffering from a certain type of superbug, considered by health authorities as enemy “number one”, more than doubled over the past year.

Hospital Authority figures showed 340 patients were detected with carbapenemase-producing enterobacteriaceae (CPE) – bacteria that are resistant to the potent antibiotics. It marked a significant jump from the 134 cases reported in 2015.

While the total number of detected cases increased, the percentage of those that had recently been hospitalised outside Hong Kong fell from 30.6 per cent in 2015 to 23.2 last year. The vast majority of those cases had recently travelled to the mainland.

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The authority insisted the sharp rise in the number of superbug cases did not equate to an outbreak.

“As we have checked more patients and extended the criteria of screening, more [CPE] carriers could be identified,” Dr Dominic Tsang Ngai-chong, the authority’s chief infection control officer, said.

CPE, with its ability to resist “big gun” antibiotics, has become a major concern for doctors.

In response, Tsang said the authority last year expanded the time frame for recent oversees hospitalisations from six to 12 months, in an effort to screen more patients. And patients tested for clostridium difficile, a bacteria that can cause diarrhoea, were also now tested for CPE.

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Tsang said identifying more carriers was very important, as it meant those infected could be quickly isolated.

The vast majority, 87 per cent of cases detected last year, were found through stool screenings, with many patients displaying no symptoms of the infection. Others had the superbug found in their blood, urine or sputum.

Tsang suggested people cook their meat thoroughly to prevent superbug infections.