Medical practitioner calls for an investigation amid allegations ‘multidrug-resistant infections a contributing factor in 29 hospital deaths.’
25,000 deaths per annum in the EU linked to multidrug-resistant infections
Use of antibiotics on some farms may be breeding potential killer bugs that pass to humans in the food chain.
‘Some bacteria building up a tolerance to antibiotics, possibly posing a bigger threat to humanity than terrorism.’
‘Resistance to antibiotics will emerge as an even greater threat to mankind than cancer.’
Sligo News File Online
Health Minister Simon Harris apparently believes vaccination is the answer to the hospital trolley crisis.
He has urged everyone who hasn’t availed of the flu shot to do so now. The Minister hasn’t mentioned that the jab can cause a worrying condition known as Guillain-Barre syndrome in some.
He said, “My message this afternoon is simple and clear – it is not too late to be vaccinated.”
But what of the major emergency where bug resistance to antibiotics is killing people on a colossal scale.
According to a medical expert, the incidence of multidrug-resistant infections “may have been a contributing factor in 29 deaths” at just one Irish hospital alone.
Countrywide, the figure could be in the thousands.
Referring to findings of the Health Information and Quality Authority, Clare-based TD, Dr. Michael Harty has warned that the occurrence of resistant infections at Limerick University Hospital “has not been adequately controlled.”
He said overcrowding in emergency departments resulted in “significant compromises in maintaining adequate levels of environmental cleanliness, which in turn increased the risk of health-care associated infections, including multidrug resistant infections.
“These infections are life-threatening if contracted by frail elderly patients who are placed at risk on trolley queues for prolonged periods of time in the emergency department or placed in congested, overcrowded wards.”
Dr. Harty said that multidrug-resistant infections pose a threat to patients “in all acute hospitals…”
Cross-channel, an expert committee set up by the British government found that superbugs resistant to antibiotics are implicated in the deaths of 700,000 people across the world every year. The report warns that the growth in such infectious disease could kill 10 million people a year worldwide by 2050.
The number of deaths in the EU attributable to multidrug-resistant infections has already climbed to more than 25,000 per annum.
Driven by growing concern over the mortality rate in Ireland, the government moved to establish a body of top scientists to advise on the superbug crisis in Irish hospitals. Strangely, estimates for the number of infections and deaths associated with antimicrobial-resistant bacteria were said not to have been available when a 2013 report compiled by scientists was finalised by Food Safety Authority of Ireland. Using “a crude extrapolation on population size for the country,” the authority, however, concluded it may suggest the order of 30,000 infections per year and upwards of 500 deaths.
The rapid escalation in human life-threatening drug-resistant diseases has also led to fears that the use of antibiotics on some farms may be breeding potential killer bugs that pass to humans in the food chain. Earlier this year, Britain’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies reportedly lambasted the farming industry in the UK when she warned that some bacteria are building up a tolerance to antibiotics, “possibly posing a graver threat to humanity than terrorism.” Former British Chancellor George Osborne stated that, in the absence of effective measures, resistance to antibiotics would emerge as “an even greater threat to mankind than cancer.”
According to the FSAI report, use of antibiotics on Irish farms was up to four times higher than in Denmark. The report states that 100 tonnes of antimicrobials – these are agents that act against all types of microorganisms including bacteria (antibacterial), viruses (antiviral), fungi (antifungal) and protozoa (antiprotozoal) – was sold for veterinary use in Ireland in 2013. Antimicrobial use in the Irish pig production industry in 2011 was stated by the FSAI to be upwards of 152.5 mg/kg pig meat, a dosage roughly four times more than used on Danish farms. The FSAI also stated that estimates suggested that “antimicrobial use in the poultry sector in Ireland is considerably higher than in Denmark.”
The life-threatening or health-endangering consequences which the seeming mass medication of pigs, poultry, and livestock reared for human use has for consumers are profoundly worrying. What is the scale of drug-resistant bacteria or diseases being transmitted in meat product or its impact on the health of people, especially the elderly or the sick with an impaired immune system?
The 2013 dated FSAI report points out that “at present, there is no specific monitoring of foods imported into the EU for antimicrobial-resistant bacteria…”
It also states, “The relative importance of transfer of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria to food during primary production, compared with contamination of foods with antimicrobial -resistant bacteria during washing, processing and preparation is unknown.”
As well, the report focusses on landspreading of animal manures, by-products and municipal organic materials “deposited in the environment, including water sources.” It states, “This is likely to be a factor contributing to the presence of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria in foods of non-animal origin.
In debating the drug-resistant infections issue in the Dail before the Christmas, Dr Harty said that between 2009 and 2014, there was more than 50 cases of CPE-produced enterobacterial in Limerick. Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) or carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE) are Gram-negative bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics considered drugs of last resort for such infections. CRE is described as “the new superbug” and the “nightmare bacteria.” It is claimed that the bacteria can kill up to half of the patients who get bloodstream infections.
Dr. Harty said in 2014 a member of the infection control team at the hospital became so concerned about the escalation of multidrug-resistant infections that she made “a protected disclosure” to the Health Information and Quality Authority – HIQA. The authority, he said, carried out an unannounced inspection, the findings of which were summarised as “especially poor standards of environmental hygiene; ward maintenance not carried out in a timely fashion; long-standing extra beds in wards; and inappropriate bed spacing which led to increased risk of spread of infection between patients.”
Despite this, the incidence of multidrug-resistant infections continues to grow in the hospital, he said. Multidrug-resistant infections also pose a threat to patients “in all acute hospitals…”
He said that the incidence of CPE – carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae – infection, “which is just one of several multidrug-resistant infections, is increasing at an alarming rate in the hospital and new cases continue to occur.”
Commenting on details of an internal report of July 2016, he said that there were 33 cases in 2014; in 2015 the figure rose to 53, and in the first half of 2016, 19 new cases were identified.
Dr. Harty’s revelations should have set alarm bells ringing across the entire health service. Are our hospitals safe, particularly given the conditions of overcrowding and trolley queues, all apparently conducive to the spread of life or health-threatening infectious diseases or “superbugs”?
Dr. Harty, who has called for an investigation, said infection prevention measures in Limerick “are failing to adequately control the spread of multidrug infection.
“Overcrowding in the hospital and presumably in other hospitals is putting patients’ health and lives ar risk for many reasons, in particular exposing patients to multidrug-resistant resistant infections.
“An external independent investigation needs to be carried out urgently, especially in the light of information that at least 29 patients may have had a multidrug-resistant infection as a contributory cause to their deaths.”
Minister of State at the Department of Health, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said she would “certainly bring the Deputy’s suggestion that there be an independent report to HIQA and the Minister and see what can be done.”