Warning to tourists planning to start traveling again next summer: When traveling abroad, they may bring “superbugs” that have become resistant to traditional medicines, A study published this week in the scientific journal Genome Medicine showed.
US and Dutch researchers studied 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.
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.
“These results clearly show that international travel risks spreading antimicrobial resistance around the world,” said Alaric D’Souza, co-author of this work.
Bacteria become more resistant to antibiotics
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.
“It is critical that we address antimicrobial resistance in low-income countries, with high rates of resistance and low public health budgets. This international approach will not only help the countries involved but may also benefit others by limiting the international spread of resistance genes,” concluded Alaric. D’Souza.
JU (afp, genomemedicine.biomedcentral.com)