Victorian health services have today been briefed about an emerging global antibiotic resistant bacteria requiring heightened infection control measures.

Acting Chief Health Officer Dr Finn Romanes said Victorian hospitals should strictly enforce Australian guidelines on managing the antibiotic resistant bacteria known as Carbapenem resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE).

Laboratory results indicate CRE is increasing in Victoria, predominantly driven by increased numbers of a particular type of CRE known as Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase-producing bacteria (KPC).

“All Victorian health services have been provided with information from the Department of Health & Human Services emphasising the need to ensure all current national standards are in place and being strictly followed,” Dr Romanes said.

KPC can be present in the bowels of a patient without causing clinical disease - known as colonisation. Some of these patients may develop infection such as urinary tract or blood stream infections.

Since 2012, KPC infection or colonisation has been identified in 57 patients in Victoria. This equates to around 19 patients per year.

“Transmission of KPC between patients has resulted in a cluster of cases in Victoria, centred at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne,” Dr Romanes said.

So far this year there have been three patients infected with KPC at St Vincent’s.

St Vincent’s Consultant in Infectious Diseases Associate Professor Kumar Visvanathan said the hospital had enhanced its infection control measures and screening procedures – especially in relation to patients having been hospitalised overseas.

“We are committed to doing everything we can to eradicate KPC. While it’s early days yet we believe we are having some success,” Associate Professor Visvanathan said.

Dr Romanes said all health services should ensure suspected cases were isolated, with samples to be tested by a specialist public health laboratory.

Hospitals have also been advised to introduce new interim screening requirements, particularly for patients who have recently received medical care overseas.

 “We are taking significant action to protect public health by asking all hospitals to introduce heightened infection control and prevention measures, to ensure these highly antibiotic resistant bacteria are not spread,” Dr Romanes said.

Internationally the increasing prevalence of KPC has been associated with mortality rates of up to 50 per cent in infected patients.

Further information on antibiotic resistant bacteria can be found on the Better Health Channel.

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