A recent Scandinavian study shows that travelers using antibiotics to treat diarrhea during their trip to exotic places unknowingly become carriers of drug-resistant bacteria, and may even contribute to the spreading of these superbugs in their native countries.
Researchers recommend that people should use antibiotics for travelers’ diarrhea only in severe cases to prevent antibiotic resistance’s from further expanding. Health authorities warn that this issue is already a public health crisis.
“The great majority of all cases of travelers’ diarrhea are mild and resolve on their own,”
said Anu Kantele, lead author of the study and professor of epidemics at Helsinki University Hospital in Finland.
For their study, researchers analyzed stool samples from nearly 450 Finns. Each study participant was tested twice – before leaving Finland and after returning home.
Scientists were looking for a special type of bacteria called ESBL-producing bacteria which hides in the gut and even melds with the healthy bacteria in that environment. The bacteria produce extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL), an enzyme that shields the superbugs against common antibiotics.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has even classified ESBL-producing bacteria as a significant threat to public health since the micro-organisms can cause severe infections that can prove deadly if more costly medication fails to counteract them.
The Finnish researchers also surveyed study participants to learn what behaviors facilitated colonization with those superbugs. Among the questions featured diarrhea and antibiotic use.
The study revealed that 21 percent of travelers contracted the drug-resistant bacteria during their trip to tropical and subtropical lands. Additionally, among travelers who had used antibiotics to treat travelers’ diarrhea, nearly 40 percent were colonized with the ESBL-producing bacteria.
However, those who took antibiotics for diarrhea while visiting South-Asian countries, such as India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, faced the highest risk of contracting the superbug – nearly 80 percent were colonized.
The findings also revealed that those traveling in South East Asia, East Asia and Middle East were also exposed to colonization.
Researchers claim that superbug carriers may not develop an infection, but they may spread the drug-resistant bacteria in their own countries and cause others to get sick.
In India, health experts warn that there is a “tsunami of antibiotic resistance” mainly due to antibiotics overuse, overcrowding and poor sanitation. Indian superbugs were also detected in the EU, the US, Arabian Peninsula and Japan. Microbiologists explained that the spread was caused by travelers.
WHO has recently warned that if the situation was not contained, drug resistant infections caused by superbugs might soon turn into an worldwide pandemic.
Image Source: Motywacja (blog)