Carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriales (CPE) Expert Group

On 23rd October 2017, the Minister of Health declared a National Public Health Emergency in respect of the threat Carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriales (CPE) poses to the Irish Health Service.

CPE are bacteria that have become resistant to all conventionally used antimicrobials, and infections caused by these bacteria are very difficult to treat. CPE are most commonly carried in the bowel, that is, patients carry or are colonised by CPE, without being infected. However, CPE can cause bloodstream infection in people who are vulnerable, such as the elderly and the immunocompromised, making CPE a significant threat to patient safety.

In Ireland the number of cases of CPE has increased very significantly in recent years. A short amount of time remains to halt or reverse the spread of this superbug within the health service. The spread of CPE in hospitals can lead to deaths, cause suffering and disability or result in delayed hospital stays. CPE also results in the closure of beds, wards and units reducing capacity to provide services, to admit patients and to address waiting lists effectively.

National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) was established in October 2017 to oversee an enhanced response to this health threat. The NPHET aims to contain the spread of CPE in a strategic and coordinated way to maximise both patient access and patient safety. The NPHET provides advice, guidance, support and direction on the surveillance and management of CPE at a national level, develops and implements strategies to contain CPE, and provides oversight of these initiatives. The NPHET reports directly to the Minister for Health. At the first meeting of the NPHET in November 2017, it was agreed that a CPE Expert Group should be established to provide expert advice to the NPHET. The HSE proposed the Terms of Reference, the Chair and the likely membership of the Expert Group. The first meeting of the CPE Expert Group was held on 4th December 2017. Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) is the secretariat for the CPE Expert Group.