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CPE (carbapenemase-producing enterobacteriaceae)

CPE stands for carbapenemase‑producing (car-ba-pen-em-aze) enterobacteriaceae (en-ter-o-bak-tear-ee-ay-see).

Enterobacteriaceae is the name given to a family of bacteria that normally lives in our bowel. A well known enterobacteriaceae you may have heard of is E.coli (Escherichia coli).

Carbapenems are a group of antibiotics that usually work against these bacteria.

Some bacteria have become hard to treat, because these antibiotics no longer work. CPE is a family of bacteria that have become resistant to the antibiotics.

CPE infections are rare in New Zealand. When people do get it, they have often picked it up when they have had medical care overseas. CPE is found in patients in hospitals around the world, especially in Greece, India, and South-East Asia.

Healthy people don't usually get CPE infections. However, it is important to know that people without symptoms may carry CPE in their bowel or in a wound.

If you are carrying CPE, you are at risk of getting a CPE infection if you:

Effects of CPE

People may not know that they are carrying CPE and may never develop a serious infection. But in some people, it can be a serious problem and may cause pneumonia, abscesses, bloodstream infection or many other types of infections. It can sometimes result in death.

Diagnosing CPE

If your doctor thinks you may carry or be infected with CPE, they will do some simple tests. This might involve taking a rectal swab or a faecal or urine sample. The results of these tests will help your doctor work out the best form of treatment for you.

Treating CPE

There aren't many options for treating CPE infections, as the bacteria are usually resistant to most antibiotics. It is very important to try to prevent the infection in the first place.

How to avoid spreading CPE

It's important that you take precautions to prevent CPE spreading to other people when you are at home:

However, you can still wash clothes, towels, utensils and dishes the way you usually wash them.

If you are in hospital, staff will regularly wash their hands or use an alcohol‑based hand rub to reduce the risk of spreading CPE to other patients. They may care for you in a single room with your own toilet facilities. They may also wear a gown and gloves.

You can help prevent spreading CPE to other hospital patients by:

If you have CPE, you can have visitors, but it is important to know that CPE can affect people who have some long‑term health problems. If someone with a long‑term health problem is visiting you, talk with your doctor or nurse.

It is important that your visitors wash their hands or use an alcohol‑based hand rub before and after visiting you. If they are visiting other patients in the hospital, they should visit you last.

For more information

If you have any questions, the hospital's infection prevention and control team or the doctor or nurse looking after you can help.

Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created August 2019.

Page reference: 654612

Review key: HIMDR-85207