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Superbug a 'serious threat' to Kiwis

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 27/04/2017

A super bug resistant to almost all treatments has been found in New Zealand hospitals and poses a "serious and urgent threat", microbiologists say.

Known as CPE, the group of bacteria is prevalent in India and the subcontinent and is most often brought to New Zealand by travellers, the author of a study in the New Zealand Medical Journal says.

Clinical microbiologist Joshua Freeman said people with healthy immune systems were most often unaffected by CPE, but it was dangerous for those in hospital with weakened systems.

It is more resistant to treatment than other super bugs and causes infections in patients, he says.

"CPE have far fewer treatment options, and in some cases no antibiotic treatment options are available," he says.

"Moreover, it is likely in the near future that CPE will become resistant to all known antibiotics with resistance to the last-line antibiotic, colistin, emerging in India."

First reported in New Zealand in 2009 and 2011 respectively, there has been a sharp increase in CPE cases in the country in 2015 and 2016, Dr Freeman says.

A national biosecurity plan for managing the bug needs to be developed and greater awareness raised among healthcare workers of the threat it poses, he says.

He also recommends setting up a process in which investigators examine any extra spreading of the bug within New Zealand and a way for hospitals with CPE patients to gain rapid access to "last-line" antiobiotics required to treat it.

"Ultimately these measures may only succeed in delaying CPE from becoming endemic in New Zealand," Dr Freeman says.

"[But] every year free of CPE ensures a safer healthcare system for our patients and buys a little more time for new treatment options and prevention technologies to become available."

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