The Centre for Health Protection has urged the public to stop using an antiseptic product which can be bought in stores in public hospitals as it is investigating a bacterial infection that has affected 53 renal patients.
The center said a prepacked aqueous chlorhexidine named "Pro-Medi Prosept," which is distributed by Sources (USA) Medicines Ltd, may be contaminated with Burkholderia cepacia.
Prepacked aqueous chlorhexidine is used by peritoneal dialysis patients for skin disinfection and catheter-exit-site care at home.
The product contains 0.05 percent chlorhexidine, which is not classified as a pharmaceutical product under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance.
The company voluntarily recalled the affected product, and has also set up a hotline at 2411-3463.
The Department of Health was notified by the Hospital Authority on Tuesday that Queen Mary Hospital identified 53 peritoneal dialysis patients who were diagnosed with the Burkholderia cepacia complex infection in the past two years.
The affected patients were 24 men and 29 women, aged 24 to 90. Five cases were invasive infections.
There is no evidence that any of the patients died from the infection, the authority said. Among the 53 cases, four patients were diagnosed with the bacterial infection earlier this month.
The hospital identified the bacteria from the clinical specimens collected from the catheter exit site of the four patients on September 6.
The authority said environmental surveillance was initiated immediately to ascertain whether there was a common source of infection.
Some samples of the product acquired from shops in hospitals tested positive for Burkholderia cepacia complex. The product is also available in local shops and pharmacies.
It confirmed that two brands of chlorhexidine antiseptic used by public hospitals and clinics had tested negative.
Health-care product shops in public hospitals have been informed about the outbreak and told to suspend the sale of the antiseptic.
A spokesman said the authority's Central Renal Committee issued an alert to all renal units about the incident.
"The authority will review the laboratory results of renal patients with Burkholderia cepacia complex infection in all public hospitals in due course, while patients are advised to seek medical advice if an infection is suspected," he said.
The discovery by Queen Mary Hospital has been reported to the Department of Health for a follow-up.
The department conducted an inspection at the company yesterday, during which samples of the product were collected for tests.
"Members of the public, especially those who have weakened immune systems, such as renal patients, should pay extra attention to personal hygiene. Antiseptic products not indicated for wound care should not be used for that purpose or on broken skin," a department spokesman said.