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'Reservoirs of resistant bacteria' in public areas posing health risk, UEL researchers warn

PUBLISHED: 18:00 01 August 2019 | UPDATED: 19:16 01 August 2019

Dr Hermine Mkrtchyan taking samples from railings at at Straford station. Picture: UEL

Dr Hermine Mkrtchyan taking samples from railings at at Straford station. Picture: UEL

UEL

Rising levels of antibiotic resistance have been found in public places such as shopping centres and rail stations as well as hospitals, researchers at the University of East London have found.

Dr Mkrtchyan in her university research lab. Picture: UELDr Mkrtchyan in her university research lab. Picture: UEL

The antibiotic resistance poses a potential risk to public health, according to a report out today by senior biomedical sciences lecturer Dr Hermine Mkrtchyan which says the findings are "disturbing and worrisome".

The study published in Nature Journal reveals 600 isolated staphylococci locations from 11 species found in public areas, almost half being multi-drug resistant.

"Public areas which are part of our everyday life can be reservoirs for resistant bacteria," Dr Mkrtchyan stressed.

"Increased levels of such bacteria show evidence that measures to control infection in public places and hospitals fail to limit their spread. This shows the importance of good hygiene in these environments."

A higher ratio of resistant bacteria was detected in east London, at 56.7 per cent compared to 49.6pc in west London.

Dr Hermine Mkrtchyan... Dr Hermine Mkrtchyan... "The rise of antibiotic resistance is one of the most important public health threats worldwide." Picture: UEL

Samples included cash machines including one at Stratford station, poles on washroom door handles, taps, toilet seats, soap dispensers, escalator rails and pedestrian crossing buttons.

"The rise of antibiotic resistance is one of the most important public health threats worldwide," Dr Mkrtchyan added. "The treatment of multi-drug resistant staphylococci bacteria has become increasingly difficult."

Most of the staphylococci bacteria Dr Mkrtchyan's researchers found were coagulase-negative, which lives on the skin and is generally harmless as long as it doesn't enter the body.

Her team from the university's Stratford campus have been out and about over the last 12 months taking swab tests.

"Finding such high levels of antibiotic resistant bacteria in public settings is worrisome," she adds.

"Resistance genes and elements in these bacteria can spread to humans and result in new clones. Rising levels of antibiotic resistance in the community and in hospitals is disturbing."

Her researchers are now carrying out more analyses to decipher genetic features of multi-drug resistant staphylococci in public places.

Among the most common antibiotics the staphylococci was resistant to were penicillin at 80 per cent, fusidic acid 72pc, erythromycin 54.pc and amoxicillin 27pc.

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