CDC sounds alarm over superbugs in Ukraine that are resistant to ‘last-ditch’ antibiotics and are beginning to spread across war-torn country’s borders
- CDC called the spread of antimicrobial resistance in Ukraine an 'urgent crisis'
- About 60 percent of patients had infections that were resistant to “last-ditch” antibiotics
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Superbugs resistant to some of the most powerful antibiotics are spreading rapidly across war-torn Ukraine – and US health officials have now warned that the infections are spreading beyond the country's borders.
Hospitals across the country are battling a rapid increase in drug-resistant infections, which are spreading to Europe, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Officials said the spread of antimicrobial resistance in Ukraine is an “urgent crisis” that must be addressed.
Researchers examined hundreds of Ukrainian patients for infections they acquired in hospital in November and December 2022.
Paramedics check the condition of injured soldiers at the resuscitation bus on August 11, 2023 in Zaporizhia Oblast, Ukraine
Imipenem-cilastatin is an antibiotic used to treat serious infections caused by bacteria, such as pneumonia. It is known as a carbapenem antibiotic because it is so effective
They found that about 60 percent of patients had infections that were resistant to carbapenem antibiotics — which the CDC describes as a last defense antibiotic because it is usually so effective.
By comparison, in a European study through 2017, only six percent of samples from similar types of infections were resistant to carbapenem antibiotics.
The study authors wrote: 'In Ukraine, the confluence of high antimicrobial resistance rates before the war, an increase in the prevalence of traumatic wounds and war-related pressure on healthcare facilities leads to increased detection of multidrug-resistant organisms with spread to Europe.'
Health officials have been warning for years about growing antimicrobial resistance due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The European equivalent of the CDC sounded the alarm in March 2022 that hospitals should isolate and screen patients in Ukraine to prevent organisms resistant to multiple drugs.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease doctor who works at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told DailyMail.com: 'Ukraine is known to be a reservoir for antibiotic-resistant bacteria and it is not surprising that the number of cases is increasing given the war occurs there, causing injury and delaying the ability to provide care.
'Similar problems occurred during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – Operation Iraqi Freedom Operation Enduring Freedom – with US soldiers contracting drug-resistant infections.'
Dr. Adalja added: 'Antimicrobial resistance is a global problem that is only increasing – what is happening is not specific to Ukraine, but is another example of it. This phenomenon has been an increasing threat to modern medicine for decades.”
Last year, Germany saw the number of infections with resistant bacteria skyrocket after March 2022, linked to refugees from Ukraine.
The largest increase in Germany occurred for resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae.
In the US, about five percent of Klebsiella samples in 2021 were resistant, the CDC found.
In the most recent study in Ukraine, all Klebsiella samples tested from patients were resistant to carbapenem antibiotics.
In July, U.S. military doctors in Ukraine treating a Ukrainian soldier said the patient was infected with six separate “extremely resistant bacteria,” including Klebsiella pneumoniae, after suffering severe burns over more than half his body.