Antibiotic-resistant bacteria suspected in Royal Alex death

Alberta Health Services says thinks bacteria was brought to Edmonton by from overseas, has spread to four other patients.

An antibiotic-resistant bacteria is suspected in the death of a patient at the Royal Alexandra Hospital and of spreading to four other patients, according to Alberta Health Services.  

"Infection … was part of the cause of the cause of death. We know that there was an antibiotic-resistant bacteria that was part of this. We don’t know yet whether that bacteria was linked to the others that we’re talking about," said Dr. Mark Joffe, AHS Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control.

Dr Mark Joffe says the infection may have been brought to Edmonton by a patient who was infected while having surgery overseas.

The bacteria is thought to have been brought to Edmonton by another patient who developed the infection after having surgery overseas.  

Joffe said the infected patient was not immediately isolated when she entered the hospital, as she should have been under AHS policy.  

"That is our policy and has in fact been our policy for a number of years. So, we beleive it is important and we need to find out why in this particular occasion it did not happen," said Joffee.

Instead, she was not isolated until three days later. In the meantime, Joffe suspects the bacteria was spread — likely on the hands of medical staff - to at least five other patients.  

Tests found the presence of New Delhi Metallobetalastamase or NDM, an enzyme that makes bacteria resistant to drugs normally used against antibiotic-resistant strains. It is rarely found in Canada and is extremely rare in Alberta, Joffe said. The patient was also found to be carrying a strain of bacteria known as acinetobacter.  

Joffe declined to provide details about the person who died, except that the death occurred within the past 10 days.

He said the cause of death is still under investigation but it is suspected that bacteria may have played some role in the person's death.

Immediately after the bacteria was discovered, five units at the Royal Alex were isolated, which means no new patients were accepted. About 300 patients on those five units were tested and from those, five were found to be carrying the bacteria.   They are not ill from the bacteria. Four remain at the hospital in isolation. One has gone home. 

 Joffre said there is an investigation underway to find out exactly why staff did not immediately isolate the woman who entered the hospital with infection from a foreign country. He would not say where she was travelling at the time of the accident, only that it was a country in the Indian subcontinent. Joffe said the bacteria, in general, is not dangerous and that the outbreak has been contained.