Another Enemy on the Front Lines in Ukraine: Antibiotic-Resistant Germs

By   |  July 5, 2023

By Cara Murez HealthDay Reporter  |  Copyright © 2022 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

TUESDAY, July 4, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Bacteria found in hospital patients in Ukraine is showing extreme antibiotic resistance, making it harder to treat the wounded and ill in this war-torn country, new research warns.

“I am quite thick-skinned and have witnessed numerous situations involving patients and bacteria," said study author and bacteriologist Kristian Riesbeck. "However, I must admit that I have never encountered bacteria as resistant as this before.”

Riesbeck is professor of clinical bacteriology at Lund University in Sweden. He and his colleagues are working with microbiologists in Ukraine to investigate this issue.

Oleksandr Nazarchuk, a microbiologist in Vinnytsia, Ukraine, reached out to Lund for help in assessing the extent of antibiotic resistance among severely injured patients in Ukrainian hospitals.

Many of those whose samples were analyzed had burn injuries and acquired infections in the hospitals, which are overwhelmed with patients and have destroyed infrastructure.

Researchers collected samples from 133 adults who were injured in the war and eight infants diagnosed with pneumonia. They had been admitted to three Ukrainian hospitals where they received emergency surgeries and intensive care.

Riesbeck said several bacteria were resistant to broad-spectrum antimicrobial agents, including newly developed enzyme-inhibiting medicines not yet available on the market.

“Nearly 10% of the samples contained bacteria that demonstrated resistance even to 'our last-resort' antibiotic, colistin," he added in a university news release. "While we have encountered similar cases in India and China before, nothing compares to the extent of resistance observed in this study."

As much as 6% of samples contained bacteria resistant to every antibiotic researchers tested, Riesbeck said.

He was particularly concerned about the resistance seen in Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria, which have the potential to sicken individuals who have a healthy and well-functioning immune system.

“This makes me very worried. It’s rare to encounter Klebsiella with such high levels of resistance, and it was not what we anticipated," he said.

Many countries are providing military aid and resources, and it is equally important to help Ukraine address this ongoing situation, Riesbeck said. The risk of further spread of resistant bacteria threatens all of Europe, he said.

The findings were recently published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

More information

The World Health Organization has more on antibiotic resistance.

SOURCE: Lund University, news release, June 29, 2023