Date
25 June 2017
Of the CPE cases handled by Hong Kong hospitals last year, 86 percent of patients did not initially show CPE symptoms. Photo: HKEJ
Of the CPE cases handled by Hong Kong hospitals last year, 86 percent of patients did not initially show CPE symptoms. Photo: HKEJ

Hospitals see sharp increase in “superbug” infections

Hong Kong has seen an alarming increase in “superbug” infections due to abuse of antibiotics, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The Hospital Authority (HA) said the number spiked to 340 in 2016 from just 19 in 2011.

The increase has been blamed on carbapenemase-producing enterobacteriaceae (CPE) which are resistant to antibiotics.

Experts describe CPE as the new “superbug”.

CPE is resistant to the carbapenem class of antibiotics, considered the drug of last resort.

CPE produces an enzyme called carbapenemase which disables the drug molecule, making it ineffective.  

The HA said most of the previous cases of CPE were brought to Hong Kong by patients who have received medical treatment overseas.

About 53 percent of the cases in 2011 fell into this category. The figure has since skyrocketed to 79 percent of cases in 2013.

The percentage of foreign CPE cases has dropped to 31 and 23 percent in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

HA chief infection control officer Dr. Dominic Tsang said that of the CPE cases handled by Hong Kong hospitals last year, 86 percent of patients did not initially show CPE symptoms.

These patients were admitted to hospitals because of other problems and were found to have contracted the CPE virus after tests.

Tsang said the surge in CPE cases was due to hospitals conducting more tests. Hospitals would now conduct such tests if a patient has stayed in a hospital overseas within the past six months.

Since October, CPE tests have been be made on patients who have stayed in a hospital overseas in the past 12 months or have taken antibiotics during his or her stay in a local hospital, Tsang said.

Tsang urged citizens to carefully process meat and cook food items thoroughly.

He said all superbugs and avian flu viruses such as H5N1 and H7N9 would normally be killed at a temperature of 75 degrees celsius or above for two minutes.

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