Should We Be Alarmed by the New KPC Superbug?

Health officials are warning about a new antibiotic-resistant superbug that has infected some patients in a Melbourne hospital, according to a report by the ABC.

The klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase-producing bacteria, known as KPC, is a strain of the CRE family of bugs that can display resistance to multiple antibiotics. CRE stands for carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae, and as the name suggests, refers to the resistance of these bugs to the powerful antibiotic carbapenem.

Of 57 patients who were found to be infected in Melbourne since 2012, 18 have died, and health officials believe that two of these deaths may be as a result of KPC. Officials are calling for increased infection controls and prevention measures in healthcare settings.

Background on KPC
KPC bugs, being part of the CRE strain, are able to make an enzyme (carbapenemase) that protects them from antibiotics. However, even more interesting is that CRE bugs are able to link genetic material together and thereby become resistant to other types of antibiotics as well.

KPC is typically more common in Greece, Italy and parts of south-east Asia than in Australia. Infected patients can present without symptoms, but once the bacteria enters the bloodstream, the mortality rate is as high as 50%.

There are no typical symptoms of infection, but patients may present with severe pneumonia, severe urinary tract infections, fever, septic shock, and pain and pus at the wound site. The bug is detected via blood tests, and may also be subjected to drug tests.

KPC is not spread in an airborne manner, but through contaminated faeces, hospital instruments or infected skin contact. According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people who are in good health are not usually susceptible to CRE bug infection.

What can be done?
Health authorities are saying that hospitals and other medical settings need to be particularly vigilant about infection control and prevention. This includes proper hand washing, which is a simple but vital measure for the reduction of the spread of infection. Other measures include disinfection and using contact precautions with regard to infected patients. For instance, it may be necessary to isolate infected patients to remove the risk of contact with other patients.

So should be we alarmed?
It’s most likely that the general public needn’t be alarmed about the incidence of KPC infection. So far, outbreaks have been confined to hospital settings in Australia, and as mentioned, KPC is unlikely to be a problem for healthy individuals.

For hospitals and medical settings however, strict hygiene protocols need to be developed and followed.

How hospital cleaning can help
Professional hospital and medical centre cleaning can go a long way towards reducing the risk of infection. This includes disinfection of surfaces and thorough cleaning of toilets, floors, and restrooms. Make sure to have your hospital or clinic cleaned by a professional hospital cleaning service as a preventive measure to help reduce the risk of infections spreading.

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