Press Release

National Public Health Emergency Team on CPE held their fifth meeting today

The National Public Health Emergency Team on Carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE) held their fifth meeting today, 30 November 2017.

The agenda and discussions focused on questions for the Expert Group, the enhanced implementation structures the HSE are putting in place and communication with stakeholders. The meeting also considered an update on the numbers of patients affected.

In cognisance of the first meeting of the Expert Group on 04 December, the National Public Health Emergency Team discussed the questions that they should refer to the Expert Group. The role of this group is to review current advice and guidance on CPE Epidemiology, Prevention, Control and management so as to identify gaps, and update and provide clear, evidence-based expert advice to the National Public Health Emergency Team on these matters.

Professor Hilary Humphreys, RCSI Department of Clinical Microbiology, will Chair the Expert Group and membership will include subject matter experts from clinical specialities including microbiology, infectious disease, public health and infection prevention and control and across clinical domains. The National Public Health Emergency Team agreed that the first priority is to assure that national HSE policy, guidelines and protocols in relation to the management of CPE are aligned to international best practice and evidence and agreed this as the primary question for the Expert Group. Further information about the Expert Group will be published on the Department of Health’s website.

The Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, noted and welcomed the establishment of a HSE implementation team to oversee the governance and management of the HSE CPE Action plan and actions arising from the National Public Health Emergency Team. This group will strengthen existing national arrangements in relation to the management of CPE in the HSE.

Ensuring that there is effective communication with key stakeholders is one of the core functions of the National Public Health Emergency Team. It was noted a representative from the Department of Health provided an update to the Health Threats Coordination Group on CPE and the work of the National Public Health Emergency Group on 29 November. This group welcomed the work of the National Public Health Emergency Team in ensuring a co-ordinated approach to the containment of CPE in the context of wider antimicrobial resistance (AMR) national policy under Ireland National AMR Action Plan 2017-2020.

The minutes of all previous meetings and related documents are published on the dedicated webpage, hosted on the Department of Health website.


Notes to Editors

What is CPE?

Carbapenemase Producing Enterobacteriaceae CPE (also referred to as carbapenem resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE)) is a superbug resistant to most or all antibiotics. It is carried in the bowel and can cause blood stream infection in people who are vulnerable, such as the elderly and those with low immunity.

CPE are gram-negative bacteria that are carried in the gut and are resistant to most, and sometimes all, available antibiotics. CPE are an established threat to human health, particularly in hospital settings. They are shed in the faeces and transmitted by direct and indirect contact. A period of 4 weeks or more may elapse between that contact that results in acquisition of the organism and the time at which CPE becomes detectable in the faeces of the contact. More than half of all patients who develop blood stream infections with CPE die as a result of their infection.

CPE has been identified throughout the world in recent years. Ireland has seen an increase in the number of cases year on year. The number of cases almost doubled in 2016 and is estimated to increase by a further third in 2017. The spread of this superbug in hospitals can lead to the closure of beds, wards and units removing thereby, essential capacity to provide services, to admit patients from Emergency Departments and to address waiting lists effectively.

Public Health and microbiological advice indicates that the opportunity remains for effective interventions to be taken which can protect our patients, protect our hospital capacity from unplanned closures and ultimately lead to a halting or reduction in the spread of this superbug.
What is a public health emergency?

A public health emergency is described as any serious or unexpected event, due to an infectious disease, which causes, or threatens to cause, death or serious illness to large sections of the population, an individual region or a specific cohort of individuals and which will have a major impact on the normal functioning of the health system and on society in general.

What is the Public Health Emergency Plan?

The Department of Health’s National Health Emergency Plan is a plan for activation in the event of a national/large-scale public health emergency in the event of an infectious disease outbreak or similar health issue. The purpose of the plan is to assist all health agencies in the State to respond to a public health emergency in an integrated and co-ordinated manner.

The National Public Health Emergency Team was convened as a result of the activation of the Public Health Emergency Plan, on 25 October 2017, by the Minister for Health (Mr Simon Harris, T.D.) as a public health response to CPE in Ireland.

What is AMR?

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is resistance of a microorganism to a drug that was originally effective for treatment of infections caused by that microorganism. Resistant microorganisms (including bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites) are able to withstand attack by antimicrobial drugs, such as antibacterial drugs (e.g., antibiotics), antifungals, antivirals, and antimalarials, so that standard treatments become ineffective and infections persist, increasing the risk of spread to others.

The evolution of resistant strains is a natural phenomenon that occurs when microorganisms replicate themselves erroneously or when resistant traits are exchanged between them. The use and misuse of antimicrobial drugs accelerates the emergence of drug-resistant strains. Poor infection control practices, inadequate sanitary conditions and inappropriate food handling encourage the further spread of AMR.

What is the National Action on Antimicrobial Resistance 2017-2020 (iNAP)?

Ireland’s National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance 2017-2020 aims to implement policies and actions to prevent, monitor and combat AMR across the health, agricultural and environmental sectors. Reducing the inappropriate use of antimicrobial medicines, as well as preventing infections and disease, is vital to stop the development and spread of resistant microorganisms.

It provides an overview for the health, agricultural and environmental sectors. It presents key strategic interventions for tackling antibmicrobial resistance in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) requirements across the three sectors. These interventions represent Ireland’s commitment to the development and implementation of a holistic, cross-sectoral ‘One Health’ approach to the problem of antimicrobial resistance.

What are healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs)?

A healthcare-associated infection (HCAI) is an infection that is acquired after contact with the healthcare services. This is most frequently after treatment in a hospital, but can also happen after treatment in outpatient clinics, nursing homes and other healthcare settings. Healthcare-associated infections that are picked up in hospital are also known as “hospital-acquired infections”.