Health experts from Sweden have warned of an “alarming antibiotic resistance” being developed in some patients in Ukraine.
Researchers from Sweden’s Lund University have raised alarm bells over a second and potentially even more deadly battle being waged in Ukraine, that of the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections in the war-torn country.
In a statement published last week, professor of Clinical Bacteriology at Lund University in Sweden, Kristian Riesbeck said: “I am quite thick-skinned and have witnessed numerous situations involving patients and bacteria. However, I must admit that I have never encountered bacteria as resistant as this before.”
The Swedish researchers focussed on 141 hospitalised patients, including 133 adults who suffered wounds during the conflict in Ukraine and eight children who had developed pneumonia. The patients were said to have developed bacterial infections during emergency surgeries while in the hospital, with limited space and destroyed infrastructure in the country leading to unsanitary conditions in the wards.
Professor Riesbeck noted that his research team were particularly concerned about the resistance to antibiotics displayed by Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria found in some of the patients given that it has the capability of causing serious illness in people with otherwise healthy immune systems.
“This makes me very worried. It’s rare to encounter Klebsiella with such high levels of resistance, and it was not what we anticipated. While isolated cases have been documented in China, the magnitude of this situation surpasses anything we have seen before. While many countries are providing military aid and resources to Ukraine, it is equally crucial to assist them in addressing this ongoing situation. There is an evident risk of further spread of resistant bacteria, and this threatens the entire European region,” Prof Riesbeck said.
“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 six per cent of all the samples contained bacteria resistant to every antibiotic we tested,” he added.
The warnings come on top of other health concerns, particularly the spread of tuberculosis in Ukraine, which even before the war broke out last year had the fourth‐highest TB incidence in Europe, prompting fears that the airborne illness could be spread more widely throughout Europe with by the millions of refugees fleeing the conflict.
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