Updated on 23 January 2015
Misuse of antibiotics to treat travelers' diarrhea leads to emergence of resistance strains
Singapore: A new study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, revealed that the misuse of antibiotics to treat travelers' diarrhea may contribute to the rise in the superbugs. The study authors suggest that antibiotics should be used to treat travelers' diarrhea only in certain conditions.
As part of the study, scientists tested nearly 430 travelers' who traveled in and out of Finland. The team discovered that about one in five of those who traveled to tropical and subtropical regions unknowingly returned with antibiotic resistance gut-bacteria.
Lead author, Dr Anu Kantele, associate professor in infectious diseases at Helsinki University Hospital in Finland, said, "The great majority of traveler's diarrhea cases are mild and resolve on their own." Eighty percent of travelers to South Asia who took antibiotics to treat diarrhea contracted the antibiotic-resistant gut bacteria. Other regions that posed a high risk were Southeast Asia, East Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, the study indicated.
Ms Kantele further said, "More than 300 million people visited these high-risk regions every year. If approximately 20 percent of them are colonized with the bugs, these are really huge numbers. This is a serious thing. The only positive thing is that the colonization is usually transient, lasting for around half a year."
The team suggested that instead of treating mild diarrhea with antibiotics, travelers must consume plenty of water, fruits and use over-the-counter, non-antibiotic anti-diarrheal drugs. She added that travelers should be educated to seek medical attention only if there are symptoms such as high fever, bloody stools or serious dehydration.