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Carbapenemase-producing organisms (CPO): Learning about CPO in the hospital

Carbapenemase-Producing Organisms (CPO)

Learning about CPO in the hospital

This information has been translated into other languages – see the links at the bottom of this page.

What are carbapenemase-producing organisms (CPO)?

  • CPO are a group of germs (bacteria) that are resistant to many different types of antibiotics including carbapenems.
  • Carbapenems are a type of antibiotic used when other common antibiotics are not effective.

How does it spread?

  • CPO can be found in the bowel or sometimes on the skin.
  • It can be spread from person-to-person on hands and equipment that have CPO on them. This can happen in the community or in healthcare settings. You likely won’t know where you came into contact with CPO.
  • In hospital settings, CPO can be spread from person-to-person from unclean hands and from equipment that has not been cleaned properly between uses.

How harmful are CPO?

  • Colonization – This is the term used when CPO live harmlessly on people. For most people, colonization with CPO is no more dangerous than any other germs we live with.
  • Infection – Some people may be at risk to develop infections. As with any other type of infection, CPO infections can become serious.
  • CPO can be spread to others from people who are colonized or infected.

How is it treated?

  • People who are colonized with CPO will not be treated with antibiotics. Colonization with CPO may go away without any treatment.
  • People infected with CPO are often given antibiotics. Infections may occur in different areas, such as wounds, blood, or urine. It’s very important to finish the prescription for antibiotics, even if you’re feeling better.

If you are a patient with CPO in the hospital

Extra precautions are taken in the hospital to prevent the spread of CPO to other vulnerable patients.

  • A sign will be placed on the door of your room reminding people to use contact isolation precautions.
  • Leave your room only for essential purposes (like to go for a medical test).
  • Every time you leave your room:
    • Clean your hands with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand rub. You don’t have to wear gloves.
    • Wear a clean, fresh hospital robe (housecoat) over your pajamas or clothes.
    • Ask your caregiver to cover wounds with a clean dressing, or to change your dressing if it is soiled or falling off.
    • Clean high-touch areas on your wheelchair (like the armrests), walker (like the handles), cane, and IV pole. Ask for help with cleaning if you cannot do it yourself.

What to do at home

At home, these simple practices can be used to prevent the spread of infection including CPO infection:

  • Washing your hands is the best way to stop the spread of infections. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.
  • Don’t share personal items like towels, clothing, bar soap, razors, or sports equipment.
  • Clean your home regularly, especially the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Wash clothing using regular laundry soap in the regular wash cycle.
  • Clean shared items (like sports equipment or surfaces like counters) with a household disinfectant.
  • See a doctor for any signs of an infection.
  • Cover wounds that are draining with a clean, dry dressing.

You may go to work normally. If you work in the food industry, make sure you use safe food handling procedures to prevent contamination.

Tell your healthcare worker if you have CPO or have had CPO in the past.

To see this information online and learn more, visit


Related to CPO

Other languages

Learning about CPO in the hospital

  • Hindi
  • Punjabi
  • Tamil

For 24/7 nurse advice and general health information call Health Link at 811.

Current as of: Aug 17, 2023

Author: Infection Prevention and Control, Alberta Health Services

This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.