When travelers introduce multi-resistant germs

When travelers introduce multi-resistant germs

Dangerous germs from India and Southeast Asia

Travelers are increasingly introducing multi-resistant germs from India and Southeast Asia to their home countries. A study by microbiologists at Leipzig University Hospital shows that a third of all long-distance travelers in risk areas bring dangerous bacteria, against which hardly any antibiotic works, home with them without being noticed. How exactly the multiresistant germs are transmitted is still unknown. According to the researchers, simple hygiene measures such as thorough hand washing and the use of packaged drinks during the trip do not offer adequate protection.

Multi-resistant germs from India and Southeast Asia can cause dangerous infections in immunocompromised people. Within a period of twelve months, the researchers examined the risk of bacteria being introduced (pathogen import) through long-distance travel. "We were able to show for the first time for Germany in a larger cohort that almost a third of travelers returning from areas with a high pathogen density are actually carriers of multi-resistant pathogens," explains Dr. Christoph Lübbert, Head of the Department of Infection and Tropical Medicine at the University Hospital Leipzig. The expert in gastroenterology, infectiology and tropical medicine evaluated data from 225 vacationers before and after a trip to areas with high occurrence of multi-resistant pathogens (MRE). "This particularly affects the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia as well as various countries in Africa and Central and South America, where these problematic pathogens occur significantly more often than we do," reports Lübbert. The internist focused on the so-called ESBL-forming bacteria, which are resistant to the majority of the available antibiotics. While the intestinal bacteria are harmless to healthy people and cause no discomfort, the pathogens can cause life-threatening infections in immunocompromised people.

Transmission routes of the multi-resistant germs are still unclear As the internist reports, the exact transmission routes of the dangerous bacteria have not yet been fully clarified. "Our study provides some pointers here, because neither thorough hand hygiene nor the exclusive use of packaged drinks during the trip had a convincing protective effect," said Lübbert.

The evaluation of the data showed that the pathogens are most often introduced to India. More than 70 percent of travelers in this region were carriers of the multi-resistant bacteria. Almost 50 percent of travelers in Southeast Asia also carried the germs. A diarrheal disease (gastroenteritis) acquired during the stay abroad increases the risk of transmission, according to a further result of the study, which was published in the renowned journal "International Journal of Medical Microbiology".

A total of 30.4 percent of the 225 healthy volunteers (average age: 34 years) were colonized with ESBL-forming bacteria. "This value confirms similar current studies in Scandinavia and the Netherlands and is higher than previously assumed," explains the expert in tropical medicine. Previous studies assumed significantly lower rates, which were between 14 and 25 percent.

Screening for multi-resistant germs in travelers from India and Southeast Asia in hospitals is urgently required "Our study shows that the fight against multi-resistant pathogens requires a global approach in order to be successful in the future", emphasizes Lübbert. "A systematic intake screening for ESBL-forming bacteria in patients who have been in India or Southeast Asia within the past six months can effectively prevent the risk of unnoticed transmission in healthcare facilities and especially in hospitals." The internist also advises to isolate the Patients until the test results are available. “Screening for employees in the food industry and gastronomy after such trips could also be a preventive measure for the future,” says Lübbert. (ag)

Image: Cornelia Menichelli / pixelio.de

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