August 1, 2019 / 3:23 PM / 21 days ago

Superbugs found lurking in London underground and hospitals

FILE PHOTO - People crowded on a Central Line tube underground train during rush hour commute in London, November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce

LONDON(Reuters) - Scientists have found multidrug-resistant “superbug” bacteria lurking on cash machines, escalators and handrails in London’s underground rail system, shopping centres and hospitals and say they pose a potential risk to public health.

Research published in the journal Scientific Reports on Thursday found “disturbing” and “worrisome” levels of antibiotic resistance, said Hermine Mkrtchyan, a specialist in biomedical sciences at the University of East London, who co-led the work.

“General public areas, which are part of our everyday life, can be reservoirs for multidrug resistant bacteria,” she said. The levels found were “further evidence that infection control measures, both in the hospitals and in public places, fail to limit the spread of resistant bacteria,” Mkrtchyan said.

The research team collected a total of 600 samples of a bacteria known as staphylococci from public places and public areas of hospitals in East and West London. Of the 600, 281 were found to be multidrug resistant.

Among the areas sampled were surfaces such washroom door handles, taps, toilet seats, ATM machines, soap dispensers, escalator rails and pedestrian crossing buttons.

Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Kirsten Donovan

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