Even Short Trips Expose Travelers To Antibiotic Resistant Bugs

Almost 90 percent of Japanese travelers in a small study were found to have picked up antibiotic-resistant bacteria from short trips to Vietnam.

AsianScientist (Apr. 20, 2018) – According to a study published in Infection and Drug Resistance, trips of less than two weeks are sufficient to spread drug-resistant bacteria.

The emergence of antibiotic resistance among dangerous pathogens is increasingly problematic worldwide. Many strains of infectious bacteria have become multidrug-resistant and cannot be treated with common antibiotic therapies. While the antibiotic colistin can often be used to treat infections by multidrug-resistant bacteria, colistin resistance is also on the rise and represents an emerging global health threat, further limiting available treatments.

“Extended-spectrum, beta-lactamase (ESBL) producing bacteria are resistant to most first-line antibiotics,” explained study first author Tatsuya Nakayama, an assistant professor at Osaka University.

“Colistin is typically used as a last-resort treatment when there are no other therapy options available,” he continued. “Unfortunately, we’re seeing an increase in ESBL strains carrying the mcr-1 gene, which confers colistin resistance to bacteria.”

The researchers followed 19 Japanese participants who traveled to Vietnam for less than two weeks. They collected fecal samples before and after each trip, and used a mix of biochemical and genetic assays to identify bacteria carried by each of the travelers.

The team found that short-term trips led to a significant increase in ESBL-producing bacteria: resistant strains were found in nearly 90 percent of travel events and in the majority of cases travelers had shown no sign of ESBL bacteria prior to their journey.

More concerning, however, was the researchers’ finding that the mcr-1 gene—which was absent among all travelers before leaving Japan—was carried back to Japan by three of the returning travelers during three separate travel events. The findings of the study thus suggest that even a relatively short international trip has the potential to serve as a starting point for the spread of colistin resistance.

“Our study supports the notion that even short-term travel can bring colistin-resistant strains back to the country of origin,” senior author Professor Yoshimasa Yamamoto concluded.

“In a globalized community in which travel to developing countries is common, the spread of colistin-resistant bacteria is a significant concern to worldwide health. We need to ensure that proper surveillance and public hygiene measures are in place, so that we can minimize the dissemination of highly resistant strains to the greatest extent possible.”

The article can be found at: Nakayama et al. (2018) Carriage of Colistin-resistant, Extended-spectrum β-lactamase-producing Escherichia coli Harboring the mcr-1 Resistance Gene After Short-term International Travel to Vietnam.


Source: Osaka University; Photo: Pexels.
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