Drug-resistant bacteria spread

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Bacteria that are resistant to almost all antibiotics, increasingly spread across Europe, according to new figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

It concerns resistant variants of normal intestinal bacteria and skin bacteria. Such bacteria do little harm to healthy people, but can cause dangerous infections that are difficult to treat in sick and debilitated patients.

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The bacteria carry enzymes that make them resistant to antibiotics of the carbapenem type, the last available group of antibiotics. Carbapenem are powerful agents with relatively few side effects.

The enzymes include, for example OXA-48, which became known in the Netherlands because of the outbreak of the Klebsiella bacteria in Maasstad Hospital in Rotterdam in 2010 and 2011.

In sixteen countries, including the Netherlands and Belgium, there's an increased spread noticeable of the intestinal bacteria E. coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae, which are insensitive to almost all antibiotics.

In absolute terms, the numbers in The Netherlands are relatively small: in the first nine months of this year 72 of these types of bacteria were found here. Last year there were 51 in the same period .

In 2010, no separate record were kept of this bacterium in the Netherlands for the simple reason it was only very occasionally found here.

For the skin bacterium Acinetobacter baumannii the figures of this year are a baseline. In eight of the eighteen countries for which figures are available, more than a quarter of those bacteria are resistant to carbapenems.

If carbapenem antibiotics no longer work doctors have little means to fight infections from such resistant bacteria.

The research for the ECDC publication was done under the direction of the UMC Groningen.