Return of killer hospital superbug, Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase (KPC)


Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase, or KPC for short, is a hospital bug that has increasingly become the source of concerns not only in England but also in other European countries, like Italy and Greece. It is responsible for many infectious cases in England, especially Manchester, many of which are reported to have died from the bug.

According to statistics, the number of KPC patients has increased up to around 1,241 within the Central Manchester University Hospitals trust area from 2009 to 2013. The infection becomes serious when blood poisoning begins to take place, which happened in 62 cases, with 14 of these who which passed away within 30 days from the day the infection was found in their bodies. Within the same year, 2 other deaths were confirmed.

KPC is dangerous in two ways. It infects the urinary tract and causes pneumonia to ill patients. More dangerously, carbapenems, the primary group of antibiotics that are used to defend against bacteria resistant to the multidrug appears to be futile against KPC. The chemical that allows KPC to be resistant to existing antibiotics is said to be spreading into other commonly found bacteria, some of which are E. coli and Enterobacter.

In face of such a dangerous and potential epidemic, tremendous effort needs to be made to tackle and control this infection. The trust is now working in collaboration with Public Health England to come up with preventative measures for the communities affected.

The trust tried to mitigate the tension by saying that the patients who died while being infected with KPC were extremely ill. Many of them were suffering from diabetes, problematic kidneys, rejected for transplants and even many forms of cancer. The required surgery and cancer treatment might have otherwise hindered, rather than helped, their delicate immune systems.

Though with a much smaller number, KPC not only appears in Manchester but also in other hospitals in other cities like New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton which had 2 cases, one of which was confirmed to bring about a death in the last 2 years. University Hospital of North Staffordshire has had 10 infection cases and fortunately no associated deaths.

According to Professor Laura Piddock from Birmingham University, the UK should be as serious about tackling with KPC issue as if they were solving the Aids epidemic in the 90s. It needs public support to bring about the necessary changes for long-term change.

Image credit: Nathan Reading


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