Drug-re­sis­tant su­per­bug spread­ing in hos­pi­tals: Study

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Alert -

A SU­PER­BUG- re­sis­tant to all known an­tibi­otics that can cause “se­vere” in­fec­tions or even death is spread­ing un­de­tected through hos­pi­tal wards across the world, sci­en­tists in Aus­tralia have warned. Re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Mel­bourne dis­cov­ered three vari­ants of the mul­tidrug-re­sis­tant bug in sam­ples from 10 coun­tries, in­clud­ing strains in Europe that can­not be re­li­ably tamed by any drug cur­rently on the mar­ket. “We started with sam­ples in Aus­tralia but did a global snap­shot and found that it’s in many coun­tries and many in­sti­tu­tions around the world,” Ben How­den, di­rec­tor of the univer­sity’s Mi­cro­bi­o­log­i­cal Di­ag­nos­tic Unit Pub­lic Health Lab­o­ra­tory told AFP.

“It seems to have spread.” The bac­te­ria, known as Sta­phy­lo­coc­cus epi­der­midis, is re­lated to the bet­ter-known and more deadly MRSA. It’s found nat­u­rally on hu­man skin and most com­monly in­fects the el­derly or pa­tients who have had pros­thetic ma­te­ri­als im­planted, such as catheters and joint re­place­ments. “It can be deadly, but it’s usu­ally in pa­tients who al­ready are very sick in hos­pi­tal... it can be quite hard to erad­i­cate and the in­fec­tions can be se­vere,” How­den said. His team looked at hun­dreds of S. epi­der­midis spec­i­mens from 78 hos­pi­tals world­wide. They found that some strains of the bug made a small change in its DNA that led to re­sis­tance to two of the most com­mon an­tibi­otics, of­ten ad­min­is­tered in tan­dem to treat hos­pi­tal in­fec­tions.

“These two an­tibi­otics are un­re­lated and you would not ex­pect one mu­ta­tion to cause both an­tibi­otics to fail,” said Jean Lee, a PhD stu­dent at Mel­bourne’s Do­herty In­sti­tute, and co-au­thor of the study. Many of the most pow­er­ful an­tibi­otics are ex­tremely ex­pen­sive and even toxic, and the team be­hind the study said that the prac­tice of us­ing mul­ti­ple drugs at once to pre­vent re­sis­tance may not be work­ing. The re­searchers said they be­lieve the su­per­bug is spread­ing rapidly due to the par­tic­u­larly high use of an­tibi­otics in in­ten­sive care units, where pa­tients are sick­est and strong drugs are pre­scribed as rou­tine. The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion has long warned of an­tibi­otic overuse spark­ing new strains of killer, drug-re­sis­tant bac­te­ria.

Another Aus­tralian study, pub­lished last month, sug­gested some hos­pi­tal su­per­bugs are grow­ing in­creas­ingly tol­er­ant to al­co­hol-based dis­in­fec­tants found in hand­washes and sani­tis­ers used on hos­pi­tal wards. How­den said his study, pub­lished in the jour­nal Na­ture Mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy, showed the need for bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of how in­fec­tions spread and which bac­te­ria hos­pi­tals choose to tar­get. “This high­lights that the use of more and more an­tibi­otics is driv­ing more drug-re­sis­tant bac­te­ria,” he said. “With all bac­te­ria in a hos­pi­tal en­vi­ron­ment we are driv­ing more re­sis­tant strains and there’s no doubt that an­tibi­otic re­sis­tance is one of the big­gest dan­gers to hos­pi­tal care world­wide.” – AFP

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