Antibiotics for diarrhoea putting patients at risk

Reaching for the medication may not only be aiding the global spread of superbugs but also putting individual travellers in danger of colonisation, new research suggests.

Infectious diseases specialists are calling for better traveller education after a study showed for the first time that treating diarrhoea with antimicrobials was an independent risk factor for contracting resistant
gut microbes.

Researchers from the University of Helsinki analysed the pre- and post-trip stool samples of 430 Finns travelling outside of Scandinavia, finding 20% became colonised with drug-resistant bugs. The rate leapt to 37% in those who had used antibiotics for diarrhoea.

Although most travellers’ diarrhoea resolves by itself, almost two-thirds of participants in the study used antimicrobials for mild or moderate symptoms.
Associate Professor Bernie Hudson, infectious diseases specialist and clinical microbiologist at Royal North Shore Hospital,