Air travelers have been alerted on the existence of a killer superbug, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) which could be silently harboured in toilet doors at some airports.
A new study in medical journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection reveals that the superbug could be transferred between tourists on airport toilet door handles and then spread to different destinations across the world. It also investigated how easily drug-resistant bacteria could hitch a ride with travelers as they jet across the world.
A group of researchers led by Frieder Schaumburg from the University Hospital Munster, Germany, sampled four hundred (400) door handles in 136 airports in 59 countries and reveal that drug-resistant bacteria was found on the handles of toilet doors at various international airports.
Their results show bacteria Staphylococcus aureus was present in 5.5 per cent of the samples. This was followed by Stenotrophomonas maltophilia (two per cent) which is naturally resistant to a number of antibiotics and Acinetobacter baumannii complex in 1.3 per cent.
The team detected a variety of bacteria common to fecal contamination which could be transferred by touch from toilet door handles to tourists’ homes.
The study found that contamination rates were highest for Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause a variety of infections from sore throats to meningitis, recorded on 5.5 per cent of the samples.
In Africa, the samples Staphylococcus aureus was recorded as slightly more common on airport handles with (7.7 per cent) than in Asia (4.7 per cent), Europe (5.5 per cent), North America (4.7 per cent) and South American (6.5 per cent).
According to the World Health Organisation, antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to human health in the 21st century and will cause a projected 10 million deaths annually by 2050.
An antibiotic-resistant bacteria called carbapenemase-producing enterobacteria, known as CPE bacteria can live harmlessly in the gut of many patients, but they can occasionally cause serious infections if they get into other parts of the body such as the blood stream, lungs and urine.
Outbreaks of these bacteria, which are spread from patients who may carry the bacteria in their gut, are an increasing problem in hospitals – particularly across Europe, India and the US.
It has also been shown that antimicrobial resistance increases the cost of health care with lengthier stays in hospitals and more intensive care required.
Studies reveal that without effective antimicrobials for prevention and treatment of infections, medical procedures such as organ transplantation, cancer chemotherapy, diabetes management and major surgery (for example, caesarean sections or hip replacements) become very high risk.