Researchers identify strain of antibiotic-resistant 'super bugs' found in Hutt Valley

Researchers identify strain of antibiotic-resistant 'super bugs' found in Hutt Valley

Originally published on Stuff

A strain of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs' found in five people living in the Wellington region has been identified, however, its country of origin is still not clear.

Microbiologist Kristin Dyet, along with her team at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), had been working to find out the source of the "concerning" bugs after they were discovered in August by Hutt Valley District Health Board.

While they had been able to identify the particular bug – Escherichia coli – Dyet said it's source was still a mystery.

"Most of the cases we get in New Zealand involve international travel. This particular cluster did not ... It's not something we see every day.

"This is a type of resistance that we're really worried about so we want to ensure that it's not spreading in the community."

ESR's Antibiotic Reference Laboratory is responsible for national surveillance of antimicrobial resistance among human pathogens, on behalf of the Ministry of Health.

The research team wasn't ruling out that a person who had been overseas and who subsequently come into contact with the five infected people, was the source of the strain but they couldn't be certain.

"Overseas they are finding that sometimes people can become infected by the environment but I don't think that's happening in New Zealand so it's more likely that there's a source out there that we're not aware of," Dyet said.

Even before the outbreak in Wellington, ESR had been asking laboratories from around the country to send "absolutely every isolate (sample)" they had to them to help widen and inform their research.

Escherichia coli had been found elsewhere in New Zealand, however, Dyet said those cases had been traced back to overseas origins.

In turn, the team would be feeding its findings back to the laboratories which would then pass it on to public health officials and DHBs.

Dyet said while the Wellington region appeared to have gone quiet with no new cases identified, the number of organisms resistant to antibiotics was rising.

However, it wasn't all doom and gloom with Dyet confident her team was armed with the information they needed about the cluster should there be another spike in the Wellington region.

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Global Call to Action on Antimicrobial Resistance

Global Call to Action on Antimicrobial Resistance