Medical

Insects found to be flying superbugs around hospitals

Insects found to be flying sup...
A study of 20,000 insects taken from hospitals across the UK has revealed just how many are harboring antibiotic-resistant bacteria
A study of 20,000 insects taken from hospitals across the UK has revealed just how many are harboring antibiotic-resistant bacteria
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A study of 20,000 insects taken from hospitals across the UK has revealed just how many are harboring antibiotic-resistant bacteria
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A study of 20,000 insects taken from hospitals across the UK has revealed just how many are harboring antibiotic-resistant bacteria

A new study has revealed the role that regular bugs play in spreading superbugs. A team from Aston University examined almost 20,000 insects collected from National Health Service (NHS) hospitals across the United Kingdom, and studied the kinds of bacteria they were carrying. The vast majority were found to host potentially harmful bacteria, more than half of which were resistant to some kinds of antibiotics.

The researchers began by collecting 19,937 individual insects from seven UK hospitals between March 2010 and August 2011, with about 75 percent of the final haul comprised of flies, 14 percent being "true bugs" like aphids, and the rest made up of ants, wasps, bees and moths. These were caught using UV light flytraps, bug zappers and sticky flypaper, placed throughout the facilities in wards, neonatal and maternity units, and food preparation areas.

Then, the team conducted microbiological analyses to determine the types and levels of bacteria the insects harbored, both in and on their bodies. Almost 90 percent of the insects tested were found to be carrying bacteria that can be harmful, and in some cases the levels were high enough to potentially cause infection in humans.

From those insects, the researchers isolated 86 different strains of bacteria, with the most common family being Enterobacteriaceae, which includes E. coli and Salmonella, at 41 percent. The second most common was the Bacillus family, which includes known food poison-associated bacteria like B. cereus, at 24 percent, and then the Staph family at 19 percent. The study showed that 53 percent of these bacterial strains were resistant to at least one class of antibiotics, with 19 percent showing multi-drug resistance.

"The results from this large-scale microbiological analysis show that a variety of flying insects collected from UK hospitals do indeed harbor pathogenic bacteria of different species," says Federica Boiochhi, lead author of the study. "What's quite interesting, though, is the high proportion of drug-resistant bacteria found in these samples. It's a vivid reminder of how our over-use of antibiotics in healthcare settings is making infections more difficult to treat."

Of course, it's important to consider this study in context. While the numbers themselves may sound alarming, the researchers point out that overall, insects would be responsible for a tiny portion of bacterial infections in hospitals. There are more important ways to fight multi-drug resistant "superbugs," such as developing new antibiotics and non-drug techniques like lights or materials.

That said, the researchers recommend that hospitals boost pest control measures to keep insects at bay. These might include using different types of traps, placing them in appropriate parts of facilities, and replacing them more regularly.

The research was published in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

Source: Aston University

2 comments
Nobody
I'm sure these insects are a problem but after spending months in different hospitals I have seen far worse. Soiled bedding is almost always placed on the visitor chairs or window sills daily. Nurses wearing rubber gloves handling everything from bed pans to food trays without changing gloves or even washing them. Doctors in too big of a hurry to actually read the charts before prescribing new medications or actually recognizing the patient. Medical professionals will deny this happens but I watched it daily in several different hospitals. Hospitals are the filthiest places on earth. When I visit someone in the hospital, I will not sit down or touch anything in the room including the person I visit. Medical mistakes are officially the number three cause of death in this country but when you throw in the unsanitary conditions, I'm sure it moves to number one.
Catweazle
Good heavens, flies carry bacteria and spread diseases, who would ever have thought it! Actually, I believe my old granny was well aware of that, her old granny probably told her... Isn't it a good job we've got these highly qualified researchers to tell us what we've known all along!