Toilet doors at airports could harbour MRSA says research

12th of December 2016
Toilet doors at airports could harbour MRSA says research

New research suggests toilet door handles at some major hub airports could be harbouring MRSA.

The study revealed that the superbug could be transferred between tourists on airport toilet door handles and then spread to different destinations across the world.

Authored by Frieder Schaumburg and published in medical journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection, the aim of the research was to investigate how easily drug resistant bacteria could hitch a ride with travellers as they jet across the world. It focused specifically on internal toilet doors as they are ‘frequently used by multiple people after potentially unhygienic activities (eg, defecation and urination) and are mostly contaminated with the flora of the skin and the gut'.

Researchers from the University Hospital Munster and Robert Koch Institute, both in Germany, asked 39 tourists to swab 400 bathroom door handles at 136 airports in 59 countries, between December 2012 and November 2015.

The travellers targeted men's toilets more frequently in their samples than women's toilets (60 per cent versus 39.5 per cent) with samples taken on arrival (16 per cent) before departure (80.7 per cent) or in transit (2.75 per cent). Researchers then took the swabs back to a lab.

Worldwide the team detected a variety of bacteria common to faecal contamination which could be transferred by touch from toilet door handles to tourists' homes.
The study found that contamination rates were highest for Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause a variety of infections from sore throats to meningitis, recorded on 5.5 per cent of the samples.

This was followed by Stenotrophomonas maltophilia (two per cent) which is naturally resistant to a number of antibiotics and Acinetobacter baumannii complex in 1.3 per cent.

In the samples S.aureus was recorded as slightly more common on airport handles in Africa (7.7 per cent) than in Asia (4.7 per cent), Europe (5.5 per cent), North America (4.7 per cent) and South American (6.5 per cent).

One batch of methicillin-resistant s.aureus (MRSA) was detected in Paris and matched a ‘community-associated MRSA clone' found in India.

Frieder Schaumburg explained: "Antimicrobial resistance is no longer a national problem but a global challenge. Resistant bacteria do not respect national borders so it is an issue of the international community.

"Our study suggests that resistant [bacteria] could be transmitted in airports but the risk seems to be low."



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