In times of COVID-19, many other medical crises have been pushed to the side although they still require our attention. One of these is the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A recently published paper, entitled “The characterization of Enterococcus genus: resistant mechanisms and inflammatory bowel disease”, explores this issue.
Antibiotics are often the last line of defense in treating serious infections. However, many antibiotics lose their effectiveness over time because of the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The factors which can change harmless strains into clinically problematic ones are described in the corresponding paper by Ivan Kushkevych et al., recently published in the journal Open Medicine.
In particular, enterococci – a large genus of lactic acid bacteria – are addressed in the review. They are the second most common cause of nosocomial infections, which include infections of the blood, urinary tract infections related to the use of catheters, post-surgery infections, as well as pneumonia associated with the use of ventilators. These bacteria might also be connected to other ailments such as Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. Enterococci are able to change and adapt very quickly, which makes it easy for them to develop resistance to antibacterial treatments.
One species of the genus Enterococcus is considered particularly interesting as it has evolved to its current form around 75 years ago and is thus one of the oldest antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains: Enterococcus faecium. These bacteria occur in nature and are harmless, however, when they are exposed to antibiotics they usually start to mutate and become pathogens.
Why is this a problem? E. faecium bacteria are much more frequent in patients with intestinal conditions, which may be due to the weakening of the intestinal wall. For these patients, the flourishing of these bacteria can lead to discomfort and possibly even death.
Enterococcus faecium around the world
In the past, there has only been very little research on Enterococcus faecium. The first resistant strains were found in 1980. In Europe, resistance has increased from 10.4% in 2014 to 14.4% in 2017; a similar situation exists in Asia. The United States have the highest levels of these resistant bacteria in the world, with a wide variation among the different states.
Dr. Ivan Kushkevych, lead author of the paper, says: “Enterococci resistance is still growing, and it is crucial to continue this research. Furthermore, is important to test new antimicrobial therapies that might stop or slow down the resistance spread. It is also necessary to focus on their impact on inflammatory bowel diseases, since their origin is not yet fully recognized.”
The review describes where bacteria of the Enterococcus genus live, their natural resistance to antibiotics, disease mechanisms, as well as their deadliness. According to Kushkevych and colleagues, their work is “a sobering look at the dangers we face, and shows what we can learn about these dangerous bacteria and how to fight them.”
If you are interested, learn more here:
Michaela Ružicková, Monika Vítezová & Ivan Kushkevych: The characterization of Enterococcus genus: resistance mechanisms and inflammatory bowel disease, 03.04.2020.