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GHA steps up mechanisms to detect ‘superbugs’

The Gibraltar Health Authority has invested in specialised technology to eradicate ‘superbugs’ resistant to antibiotics, after five patients were found to be carriers of the bacteria.
The bacteria, called carbapenem resistant enterobacteriaceae [CRE], were was first detected last year at St Bernard’s Hospital laboratory from a patient who had returned from Xanit hospital.
Although a cause for concern, the patient was only contaminated but the bacteria, which was not actually causing an infection.
In fact, the GHA considered the discovery a “triumph” of their intensive surveillance protocol.
CRE are bacteria that have developed a wide range of resistance to higher level antibiotics, which means they can cause a variety of infections that are difficult to treat because treatment options are limited.
“This can potentially result in high risk of prolonged illness and even death,” Director of Public Health Dr Vijay Kumar told the Chronicle.
“These bugs have become prominent since 2008 in various parts of the world, including South Asia, Far East, the Eastern Mediterranean, United States, some UK hospitals and Spain.”
“These bacteria tend to become established in healthcare settings where greater amounts of high level of antibiotics are used.”
“They can spread in a variety of ways, directly or indirectly through contaminated equipment, article or hands.”
Dr Kumar confirmed that over five patients have been found to be carrying CRE since last year.
“It should however be emphasised that all patients who have so far been found in Gibraltar with the bug have been only carrying them, that is, they were not infected with the bug, but merely contaminated with it,” Dr Kumar said.
Since the first discovery, a local GHA – CRE policy has been established and is accessible to all healthcare professionals.
Additionally, two new antibiotic prescribing guidelines for doctors have been introduced.
A GHA Antibiotic Stewardship group periodically meets to monitor local compliance to policy and new kits for CRE testing have been purchased which gives rapid identification within hours.
A process is under way to invest in fogging machines that can clean entire rooms automatically to international standards and enhance the GHA’s decontamination procedures.
Also an alert system has been established to manage future admissions of known carriers in a way that reduces transmission risk.
Dr Kumar added that CRE carriers will be treated according to their clinical needs.

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