Dangerous bacteria plays hide and seek in hospitals

Australian researchers have found a potentially deadly bacteria in samples from around the world, including Europe.Hospitals in at least 10 countries are affected. A bacterium capable of causing almost undetectable infections is spreading to the heart of health institutions, including in Europe, say Australian scientists from the University of Melbourne in a study published Monday in the journal Nature Microbiology.

The researchers found three variants of this multidrug-resistant bacteria, which cannot be reliably controlled by any drug currently on the market. “We started with samples in Australia,” and then with other samples the researchers got a “global overview and found that the bacteria is present in many countries and institutions around the world,” explained one of the authors, Ben Howden, director of the Microbiological Diagnostics Unit at the University of Melbourne’s Doherty Institute Public Health Laboratory. Should we be concerned? L’Express reports.

What is this bacterium?

From its learned name staphylococcus epidermidis, also called white staphylococcus, it is naturally present on the skin. It is related to the better known and more deadly meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

The researchers, who examined hundreds of samples from 78 hospitals around the world, found that some strains of the bacteria had slightly altered their DNA, causing resistance to two of the most common antibiotics, often administered in tandem in hospitals.

Who are the patients at risk?

The antibiotic-resistant variety of this bacterium most often infects the elderly, people with weakened immune systems or patients with implanted devices, such as catheters, heart valves or joint replacements. “It can be deadly, but it’s usually in patients who are already very sick in the hospital… It can be quite difficult to eradicate and the infections can be severe,” Ben Howden said.

In France, the bacteria represented “5.4% of germs responsible for nosocomial infections in 2017,” according to the agency Santé publique France and the national prevalence survey published in June. The agency explains to L’Express that “these germs, not very pathogenic, are frequently resistant to antibiotics, but very exceptionally responsible for hospital epidemics.”

Can we fight it?

Yes, Santé publique France tells us that “surveillance in France, via the Observatoire National de l’Epidémiologie de la Résistance Bactérienne aux Antibiotiques (ONERBA), describes a percentage of sensitivity of strains to glycopeptides [a variety of antibiotics] of 100%”.

Some strains may be resistant to two antibiotics, but “you wouldn’t expect a mutation to cause both to fail” because they are “not related,” according to Jean Lee, a PhD student at the Doherty Institute in Melbourne and co-author of the study.However, it should be noted that most of the more potent antibiotics are extremely expensive, and even toxic, and according to the study team the simultaneous use of multiple drugs to prevent resistance may not work.

How does it spread?

According to the researchers, this multidrug-resistant bacteria is spreading rapidly because of the particularly heavy use of antibiotics in intensive care units, where patients are the sickest and powerful anti-infectives are routinely prescribed.

The study shows the need to better understand how infections spread and which bacteria hospitals choose to target. “There is no doubt that antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest dangers to hospital care worldwide,” Ben Howden added. Visit our website HERE