Three patients at Southampton General Hospital have been put into isolation, after they tested positive for a superbug which is resistant to antibiotics.
Doctors and nurses have launched a drive on antibiotic prescribing and hand hygiene among clinicians, patients and visitors in a bid to halt the spread of the new infection.
Dr Graeme Jones, director of the infection prevention unit at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, said a lack of adequate hand hygiene and the over-prescribing of antibiotics for mild infections was creating a “breeding ground” for new and hard to treat bugs.
He spoke out after a recent routine infection screening exercise at Southampton General Hospital unexpectedly found three patients had Klebsiella pneumoniae producing carbapenemase (KPC).
The bacterium, which was not previously part of routine screening due to its low prevalence, is carried harmlessly in the gut of all humans and animals but, if it enters a wound or spreads into the urinary tract or bloodstream, can cause serious infection.
KPC is part of a group of bacteria – known as carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae – that has developed the ability to destroy strong antibiotics called carbapenems, which are often used by doctors as a last resort to treat complicated infections when other antibiotics would or have failed.
Although it is treatable, it is more difficult and may require a combination of drugs or the use of older antibiotics to be effective.
The hospital says the three patients tested positive for this strain of infection (KPC) but do not currently have any clinical infections as a result of it. They are in isolation and are being treated appropriately.
“Antibiotic prescribing in hospital is complicated, particularly when dealing with patients who have serious underlying illness and any infection can be a major setback to their recovery,” explained Dr Jones, a consultant microbiologist.
“The difficulty is that overtreatment with a more powerful antibiotic than is actually needed encourages the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and that is something we are seeing more and more of.”
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