Antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in five patients

Five patients recently admitted to Dunedin Hospital have screened positive for an antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the Southern District Health Board announced this afternoon.

The patients were colonised with vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE).

The bacteria was in or on the patient's body, however they were not sick because of it.

"Isolation of this resistant bacteria is rare and so the DHB believes that the five colonisations are likely to be connected, but it has not been possible to identify how," chief medical officer Nigel Millar said in a statement.

"Southern DHB takes any positive results for antibiotic resistant bacteria very seriously, and we are screening patients who have come in close contact, or shared a room with the patients identified as being colonised with VRE. We are getting in touch with contacts who have left hospital and providing information to their general practice teams and other relevant health care providers, though the risk to them is very low," Dr Millar said.

The DHB had put in place enhanced infection prevention and control protocols in the areas where identified patients have been treated to include patient isolation and deep cleaning of the potentially affected areas.

It was the first time that VRE had been identified in a Southern DHB patient.

 "VRE stems from the overuse of antibiotics and we need to reduce antibiotic resistance by monitoring the use of antibiotics, prescribe antibiotics correctly and aim to reduce overall use. We have all have a role to play in reducing substantially our use of antibiotics and that includes health professionals and patients."

"There is international concern that if we fail to stem this problem we will have common infections resistant to all available antibiotics," Dr Millar said.

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