New research published in Nature Microbiology today has found that antibiotic-resistant strains of the bacterium Klebsiella pneumoniae, are spreading through hospitals in Europe. Certain strains of the bacterium, that can cause respiratory and bloodstream infections, are resistant to the carbapenem antibiotics that represent the last line of defence in treating infections and are therefore regarded as extremely drug resistant (XDR).
During a Europe-wide survey of the Enterobacteriaceae family of bacteria, researchers at the Centre for Genomic Pathogen Surveillance, based at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, University of Freiburg and their partners, analysed the genomes of almost 2,000 Klebsiella pneumoniae samples taken from patients in 244 hospitals in 32 countries. The results of the survey will inform public health efforts to control the spread of these infections in hospitals across Europe.
It is estimated that 341 deaths in Europe were caused by carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae in 2007; by 2015 the number of deaths had increased to 2,094. The high number of deaths is down to the fact that once carbapenems are no longer effective against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, there are few other options left. Infants, the elderly and immuno-compromised individuals are particularly at risk.
Professor David Aanensen, co-lead author and Director of the Centre for Genomic Pathogen Surveillance, said: “Genomic surveillance will be key to tackling the new breeds of antibiotic-resistant pathogen strains that this study has identified. Currently, new strains are evolving almost as fast as we can sequence them. The goal to establish a robust network of genome sequencing hubs will allow healthcare systems to much more quickly track the spread of these bacteria and how they’re evolving.”