Huge increase in deaths from superbug infections

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 18 Nov 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: Deaths caused by a superbug which usually affects long-term care patients using invasive devices has increased significantly within four years.

Statistics from the Health Ministry showed that deaths from carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE) cases went up from 15 in 2013 to 150 last year.

The ministry’s infectious disease national head Datuk Dr Christopher Lee said CRE infections usually happened to patients in hospitals and nursing homes who require the use of devices such as ventilators, urinary (bladder) catheters, or intravenous (vein) catheters which exposed them to recurring infections.

This results in the use of certain long-course antibiotics which then cause the bacteria to evolve and become resistant, he said.

He warned that some CRE bacteria had become resistant to most available antibiotics.

“Infections with these germs are very difficult to treat, and can be deadly. One report cites they can contribute to death in up to 50% of infected patients” he said.

Centre for Disease Control and Prevention says carbapenems are a class of highly effective antibiotic agents used to treat severe or high-risk bacterial infections, but CRE is a family of germs that is resistant to antibiotics.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said CRE deaths were monitored since 2013.

However, the overall death rate of the CRE patients increased from 10% (15 out of 150) in 2013 to 18.3% (150 out of 818) in 2017, he said.

“Anti-microbial resistance (AMR) is becoming an increasingly urgent challenge for Malaysia,” he said when contacted.

The Antimicrobial Resistance Awareness Week ends today.

Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye recently announced that the World Health Organisation and Malaysia jointly launched a five-year National Strategic Action Plan to contain AMR.

Dr Noor Hisham said that in 2017, surveillance of six multidrug (MDR) organisms showed that for every 10,000 admissions, eight patients get infected by them.

An increase in antibiotic resistance is also seen in a common foodborne pathogen Salmonella sp, with resistance rates of 21.6% against ampicillin last year compared to 18.6% in 2013.

“This is a worrying situation,” said Dr Noor Hisham.

He said doctors should always adhere to guidelines and educate patients regarding their illness and antibiotics treatment.

Pharmacists, he said, must also ensure that these patients have a valid prescription.

He also urged Malaysians to prevent infections by taking immunisations, maintaining personal hygiene, food and environmental hygiene and practising safe sex.

Patients should also ask for information about their antibiotics and take them as directed, he said.

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