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Superbugs being brought into hospital by 10% of patients

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One in 10 patients bring potentially deadly bacteria, so-called superbugs, in with them when admitted to hospital, suggests new research from Germany.

In what is believed to be the largest study of its kind in Europe, scientists tested more than 4,000 adults for multidrug-resistant bacteria on admission to hospital.

“The strategy of isolating patients within hospitals no longer works”

Axel Hamprecht

The researchers, from the University of Cologne, used stool samples and rectal swabs to test for a type of gut bacteria resistant to commonly-used antibiotics.

They found nearly one in 10 were carriers of so-called third generation cephalosporin-resistant enterobacteriaceae (3GCREB), most commonly E coli.

Of 4,376 patients tested, 416 were 3GCREB carriers – equivalent to 9.5%. E coli was found in 79.1% of carriers.

In addition, ESBLs of the CTX-M-1 group and the CTX-M-9 group were the most frequent β-lactamases. Five patients were colonized with carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae.

Dr Axel Hamprecht, who was one of the study leads, said the team had been taken aback by the results.

“We were surprised that on admission almost every tenth patient was colonised with multi-drug resistant pathogens,” he said.]

The findings from the study, which involved six hospitals, have been published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

Patients who took part in the study also completed a questionnaire about previous hospital stays and their lifestyles.

It revealed that those who had taken antibiotics before and people who had travelled outside Europe were more likely to carry the 3GCREB pathogens.

Dr Hamprecht said new measures were needed to stop the spread of such superbugs. “With so many people affected, the strategy of isolating patients within hospitals no longer works,” he said.

“In contrast to other groups of multidrug-resistant bacteria such as MRSA strains, standardised sanitation measures for 3CCREB have not been established,” he added.

He said there was a need for improved hygiene measures in hospitals, better use of antibiotics – including reducing prescriptions that were not justified – and more training for clinicians.

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