Intestinal bacteria are unwanted travel companions

Intestinal bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics often accompany tourists when they return home from travel abroad. The biggest risks are run by travellers to India, according to the results of a study at Linköping University.
The researchers have analysed stool samples from 226 people before and after their foreign travels. 68 of them had brought with them ESBL-producing bacteria, which in 48 people were multi-resistant – in other words, resistant to several types of antibiotics.

Biggest study of its kind

This means, for example, that someone who contracts a common urinary tract infection will need intravenous antibiotic treatment in hospital, according to Åse Östholm Balkhed, senior physician and PhD student in infectious medicine. She is one of the researchers behind the study which is the biggest ever of its kind.

The people studied had been tourists in countries outside the Nordic region. The risk was greatest among those who had travelled to India, but other parts of Asia and North Africa also figure prominently in the results.

The still unpublished follow-up shows that most quickly got rid of their unwanted travel companions. One year after returning home, only a few people were still carrying the resistant intestinal bacteria.

Travel-associated faecal colonization with ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae: incidence and risk factors by Å. Östholm Balkhed, M. Tärnberg, M. Nilsson, L. E. Nilsson, H. Hanberger and A. Hällgren. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 2013.