At least four patients admitted to an Belfast intensive care unit have contracted the multi-drug resistant bacterial organism, Acinetobacter baumannii.

Acinetobacter spp./CDC
Acinetobacter spp./CDC

The outbreak, at the intensive care unit in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, was discovered three weeks ago and control measures have been put in place.

According to a Belfast Trust statement:

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust have recently identified an unusual multi-resistant microorganism called Acinetobacter Baumanii in the Regional Intensive Care Unit (RICU).  A small number of patients have tested positive for this infection related to this organism and are currently isolated.

An outbreak has been declared and the unit has been  undergoing an intensive deep clean process over the weekend in line with patient safety and clinical advice and all infection control procedures are being regularly monitored.

All patients remaining in the unit are being monitored in accordance with national guidelines.

The Trust would like to assure the public that robust infection prevention and control measures are in place and we are working closely with the Public Health Agency and all other Trusts to control the spread of this organism.

We would ask that visitors help us to prevent the spread of infection by being diligent regarding hand washing both on entering and leaving the unit.

We are extremely grateful for the flexibility shown by our patients, their relatives and our staff to support our programme of deep cleaning over the weekend.

Acinetobacter [asz−in−ée−toe–back−ter] is a group of bacteria commonly found in soil and water. While there are many types or “species” of Acinetobacter and all can cause human disease,Acinetobacter baumannii [asz−in−ée−toe–back−ter   boe-maa-nee-ie] accounts for about 80% of reported infections, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Outbreaks of Acinetobacter infections typically occur in intensive care units and healthcare settings housing very ill patients.Acinetobacter infections rarely occur outside of healthcare settings.

Acinetobacter causes a variety of diseases, ranging from pneumonia to serious blood or wound infections, and the symptoms vary depending on the disease. Acinetobactermay also “colonize” or live in a patient without causing infection or symptoms, especially in tracheostomy sites or open wounds.

Acinetobacter poses very little risk to healthy people. However, people who have weakened immune systems, chronic lung disease, or diabetes may be more susceptible to infections with Acinetobacter. Hospitalized patients, especially very ill patients on a ventilator, those with a prolonged hospital stay, those who have open wounds, or any person with invasive devices like urinary catheters are also at greater risk for Acinetobacter infection.

Acinetobacter is often resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics. Decisions on treatment of infections with Acinetobacter should be made on a case-by-case basis by a healthcare provider.