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Health and wellness

Health officials in Hong Kong and mainland China unite to battle deadly superbugs after new threat discovered

Study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases found new superbug in five patients who died of serious pneumonia in Zhejiang

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 September, 2017, 7:31pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 January, 2018, 10:25am

Health officials in Hong Kong and mainland China have joined forces to battle deadly superbugs, after the discovery of a new drug-resistant bacteria in a mainland hospital, the city’s health minister said on Friday.

Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee, on a trip to Beijing, said that the global threat of antibiotic-resistant bugs would be taken seriously.

“We have shared our experiences [fighting against superbugs] with the mainland Chinese authorities and they are paying a lot of attention to this public health issue,” Chan said.

Her remarks came after scientists in Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) discovered the spreading of a new superbug in a hospital in Zhejiang.

The study, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases on Wednesday, found the new superbug in five patients who died of serious pneumonia in the Second Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University in China.

After testing the blood samples of the dead patients, local scientists discovered a highly toxic, transmissible and drug-resistant new bug, and named it “ST11 carbapenem-resistant hypervirulent Klebsiella pneumoniae”.

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Researchers in the cross-border project said the new strain belonged to a group of CPE superbugs that have the ability to stick to various materials, such as the surface of medical devices and tubing, making it easy to spread inside a health care institute.

They said the strain can infect lungs, cause pneumonia and invade the bloodstream and other internal organs.

All five victims of a fatal outbreak of pneumonia in February 2016 were infected in the intensive care unit. They had developed severe pneumonia and eventually died of septicaemia and multiple organ failure, according to the report.

There was no information on the prevalence of this new strain is in Hong Kong, but PolyU researchers said they would work with public hospitals to collect such data in the future.

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University of Hong Kong microbiologist Dr Ho Pak-leung said the prevalence rate of the CPE group of infection on the mainland is about 10 times that in the city, but still, he stressed such cases should not been taken lightly as the bugs were “extremely difficult to treat”.

Chan said local hospitals have a standard procedure when handling CPE infections, including testing patients who had stayed at institutions in other places 12 months before their admissions.

“We would remain in close contact with PolyU,” Chan said.

In July, a steering committee announced a five-year plan on antimicrobial resistance in response to the growing superbug menace. They asked private doctors to report the use of antibiotics through the existing electronic health record system.