EU countries reporting growing number of E. coli strains

The increasing cases of certain kinds of antibiotics-resistant E. coli bacteria represent a new threat to the countries of the European Union (EU)/the European Economic Area (EEA), the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has said.

EU/EEA countries are reporting a growing number of E. coli strains carrying the blaNDM-5 gene that makes them resistant to carbapenems, antibiotics that are often used as the last resort to treat serious E. coli infections, the ECDC wrote in a press release.

Furthermore, a high proportion of such E. coli strains are also resistant to other groups of antibiotics such as aminoglycosides, fluoroquinolones and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, further limiting options to treat infections, it said.

Despite the low occurrence of carbapenem resistance in E. coli bacteria in the EU/EEA, a recent study by the ECDC indicates that E. coli strains carrying the blaNDM-5 gene “are already established and represent a new threat” for the region.

Such E. coli strains “are spreading rapidly and on a large geographical scale,” and there is a risk that the number of cases of carbapenem-resistant E. coli infections will increase in the EU/EEA within a few years, the ECDC said.

The E. coli bacteria are very common in the gastrointestinal tract of the human body and are part of the normal bacterial flora in humans, but they can also cause severe infections, especially in the bloodstream and the urinary tract. It is also associated with intra-abdominal infections and can cause neonatal meningitis, the ECDC said.

The agency estimates that more than 35,000 people die each year from antimicrobial-resistant infections in the EU/EEA. The health impact of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is comparable to that of influenza, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS combined. ■

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