Alberta Health Services (AHS) is notifying 50 current and discharged patients who may have been exposed to an antibiotic-resistant bacteria while in hospital in Edmonton.

Image/Public domain photo/John Fowler via Wikimedia Commons
Image/Public domain photo/John Fowler via Wikimedia Commons

The bacteria – called carbapenemase-producing organisms, or CPO – are germs that live in the gut but have become resistant to antibiotics. They are not a risk to the general public, and there are no associated health risks to the majority of people who carry the bacteria in their system.

“We are releasing this information proactively to share details about the bacteria as well as reassure the public that this bacteria has a low clinical risk to those who may have been exposed,” said Dr. Mark Joffe, Senior Medical Director, Infection, Prevention and Control, AHS.

CPO was identified in a patient admitted to the University of Alberta Hospital in late December 2015. AHS protocols were followed and this individual was isolated and screened on admission and remained isolated throughout their hospital stay.

In late March 2016, a CPO was identified in another patient who was hospitalized on the same unit as the original patient. Immediate contacts were screened and seven additional patients were identified. Of the nine total patients, eight were colonized with (carrying) the CPO with no infection and one had a mild infection that has responded to treatment.

Infection control measures were immediately put in place when CPO was identified in order to minimize the risk of further spread of this bacteria. AHS has a strong, provincewide infection prevention and control program that aims to quickly identify bacteria such as these and isolate patients in order to prevent the spread of infection and maintain patient safety.

Over the coming days, AHS will directly contact 50 current and discharged patients who may have been exposed to CPO while in care. The public notification will include those currently in hospital, those who have been discharged home, and those now living in long-term care facilities.

“We are taking the step of notifying the public to ensure transparency, and to reassure Albertans that this is not a risk to the general population,” said Dr. Joanna Oda, Medical Officer of Health, Edmonton Zone.

CPO organisms are common in many countries, but are relatively new to Canada. For most people, CPO is no more dangerous than any other germs we live with. Some people may develop infections – such as urinary tract infection – that will have fewer treatment options.