A new study from the University of Oxford has given researchers a greater understanding of how patients develop deadly lung infections despite them being on antibiotics.
The study was carried out by Oxford University’s Department of Biology and was conducted on a single patient that had the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa in their gut.
One of the leading causes of infections in hospitals and a species of bacteria that is “particularly good” at resisting antibiotics, Pseudomonas aeruginosa is not generally considered to be that dangerous when present in a healthy gut, however if translocated to the lungs of a hospitalised patient, it can cause deadly infections.
During the patient’s stay at hospital, they were given the antibiotic Meropenem to treat a suspected urinary tract infection. Whilst the antibiotic did kill off the non-resistant bacteria in the patient’s gut, the more resistant strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa were able to grow and multiply.
The researchers then discovered the bacteria had moved from the gut to the patient’s lung, where it developed an even higher level of antibiotic resistance.
Crucially, these findings reveal how the gut microbiome can be a breeding ground for antimicrobial resistant (AMR) pathogens that can then travel to other parts of a patient’s body and cause life-threatening illnesses – like pneumonia when they travel to the lung, for example.
Therefore, this study shows that eradicating AMR pathogens in a hospitalised patient’s gut – even when they are not causing any problems – can help avoid serious infections, improving health outcomes for patients, and circumventing extra work for clinicians when a patient relapses.
The study also shows the potentially adverse effects antibiotics have on, not only patients, but bacteria as well.
The University of Oxford’s Professor Craig MacLean was the lead author of the study. He said: “There is a clear need to develop new approaches to the challenges that antimicrobial resistance presents. Our study shows how gut-lung translocation and antibiotic use can combine to drive the spread of AMR within a single patient.
“Insights such as this are needed in order to develop new interventions to prevent resistant infections. For example, our study highlights a potential benefit of eliminating AMR bacteria like Pseudomonas aeruginosa from the gut microbiome of hospitalised patients, even when these bacteria are not actually causing infection.”
Researchers now plan on assessing how frequently gut-to-lung translocation occurs in hospitalised patients by evaluating a larger cohort of patients.
Click here to read to full study.