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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 surface.
  • 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 a CPO.

How harmful is a CPO?

  • Colonization – This is the term used when CPOs live harmlessly on people. For most people, colonization with CPO is no more dangerous than any other germs we live with.
  • Infections – Some people may be at risk to develop infections. As with any other type of infection, these infections can become serious.
  • CPOs can be spread to others from people who are colonized or infected.
  • 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 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 a wound, blood, or urine etc. It’s very important to finish the prescription for antibiotics, even if you’re feeling better.

If you are a patient with CPO:

  • Extra precautions are taken in the hospital because we want 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 Precautions. For more information refer to Contact Isolation Precautions patient care handout.
  • Leave your room only for essential purposes (e.g. 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 or ask for assistance with cleaning high touch areas on your wheelchair (armrests) or walker handles, cane or IV pole.

What to do at home

  • At home, these simple practices can be used to prevent the spread of infection including CPO infection:
    • Hand washing is the best way to stop the spread of infections. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.
    • Don’t share personal items (e.g., 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 (e.g., 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


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

Current as of: Aug 4, 2020

Author: Infection Prevention and Control, Alberta Health Services

Care instructions may be adapted by your healthcare provider. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, talk with your doctor or appropriate healthcare provider.