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One in three nurses lack awareness of antibiotic-resistant superbug

Survey of nurses in Scotland found misconceptions related to best method of screening

Survey of nurses in Scotland found misconceptions related to best method of screening


Lead study author Kay Currie says CPE is a ‘growing threat’.

Nearly a third of nurses in Scotland are unaware of the threat posed by a potentially deadly antibiotic-resistant superbug and think using rectal swabs to detect it is unacceptable, research has suggested.

A survey by researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) found a lack of awareness about carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE) among nurses in Scotland.

Patients might be embarrassed

In the survey, 450 nursing staff and 261 members of the public were asked about their awareness of the bacteria and the acceptability of using rectal swabs.

More than 30% of nurses questioned were unaware of the emerging risk of CPE and the same proportion thought that the best screening method, taking rectal swabs from patients, was unacceptable.

Almost 70% said they thought patients would be embarrassed by a rectal swab and 74% said they would ask patients to do the test themselves, despite the fact this may be unreliable. In contrast, most members of the public thought taking a rectal swab was an acceptable screening method.

Lead study author Kay Currie, GCU school of health and life sciences associate dean, research, said the bacteria poses a serious danger to patients.

‘CPE is a growing threat and we really want to try to stop it becoming endemic in our hospitals because it's extremely difficult to treat and get rid of once it takes hold,’ she said.

‘The bacteria lives harmlessly in the gut in healthy people but can be extremely dangerous if it gets into the bloodstream, urine or surgical wounds and causes an infection.’

Developing online resources for nurses

As a result of the research, NHS Education for Scotland is developing new online educational resources for nurses to convey the message that patients are not as embarrassed by the rectal swab test as they might think.

The threat posed by drug-resistant bacteria was in focus today as the UK government launched a five-year action plan and 20-year vision for containing and controlling antimicrobial resistance. Stated goals include preventing at least 15,000 patients a year from contracting infections as a result of their healthcare by 2024.


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