It is estimated that, in Germany, 15,000 people die from hospital-acquired “superbug” infections each year. A new study
by University of Cologne researchers reveals that, often, patients bring these superbugs into the hospital from their own homes.
The researchers were particularly interested in one group of superbugs - the 3GCREBs (third-generation cephalosporin-resistant Enterobacteriaceae).
Cephalosporins are some of the most widely-used antibiotics these days. They work by inhibiting bacterial cell wall synthesis. Bacteria are fighting back, however. Enzymes called beta-lactamases degrade cephalosporins, making them harmless to the bacteria.
The group surveyed over 4,000 adults who were being admitted at 6 German University Hospitals. They tested each patient for multidrug resistant Enterobacteriaceae (stool samples or rectal swabs). These bacteria are harmless if they remain in your gut - where they normally live. When passed from one person to the other by “smear infection”, they can cause urinary tract infections, for example.
According to study author Axel Hamprecht, “we were surprised that on hospital admission almost every tenth patient is colonised with multidrug-resistant pathogens”. To be precise, 416 of 4,376 adults, or 9.5%, were 3GCREB carriers. E. coli was the most common species found, with an incidence of 79.1%. A smaller number of patients, 0.11%, were carriers of carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae. Carbapenemases are a type of beta-lactamase that can degrade a number of antibiotics, including penicillins, cephalosporins, and carbapenems.
They also identified a handful of factors that make it more likely for you to be a superbug-carrier. These include antibiotic use within the last 6 months, treatment for gastroesophageal reflux disease, residing in a longterm care facility, and traveling outside of Europe (remember, this study was conducted in Germany).
Another important point is that these superbug-carriers were not ICU patients. That is, you don’t have to be severely ill to risk contracting or spreading a superbug infection.
According to Hamprecht, 3GCREBs may be the next superbugs to worry about. “
With so many people affected, the strategy of isolating patients within the hospitals no longer works. Additionally, in contrast to other groups of multidrug-resistant bacteria
such as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus
) strains, standardised sanitation measures for 3GCREB have not been established.”
Sources: Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy