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Travel Could Bring Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

Travel Could Bring Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

Friday, 11 June, 2021 - 06:15
Passengers queue in the departures area of Heathrow Airport after the travel ban was lifted. Reuters

A new study revealed that traveling abroad may bring "superbugs" that have become resistant to medicines.

US and Dutch researchers carried out a study that explored the effects of international travel on the bacteria in our stomachs, analyzing the stools of 190 Dutch travelers before and after visiting tourist sites in Africa or Asia.

The findings were published this week in the journal Genome Medicine. After returning to their home countries, travelers' tests showed a "large amount" of bacterial genes that were resistant to antimicrobials, rendering the use of commonly used antibiotics ineffective.

The researchers also found that a third of participants who traveled to Southeast Asia had a resistance gene to a "last resort" antibiotic, used for example to treat infections such as pneumonia or meningitis, according to AFP.

"These results clearly show that international travel risks spreading antimicrobial resistance around the world," said Alaric D'Souza, co-author of this work. The genes for these "superbugs" naturally evolve over thousands of years when exposed to antibiotics produced by other bacteria in their environment.

However, the routine use of antibiotics by humans has hastened this process. The study warns that this trend threatens 70 years of progress in treating infectious diseases. According to the researchers, the resistance genes differ according to the places visited.

Scientists were particularly concerned about travelers returning from Southeast Asia carrying the colistin-resistant mcr-1 gene, which is the "last resort" of antibiotics used when others stop working.

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