Since the beginning of the Ukraine war, certain antibiotic-resistant hospital pathogens including Klebsiella pneumoniae have been detected in German hospitals.
Some strains of the pathogen Klebsiella pneumoniae are even resistant to last-resort antibiotics such as carbapenem. Researchers from the Robert Koch Institute collaborated with Ruhr University Bochum on a study which has proven the reported cases of Klebsiella pneumoniae stemmed from displaced Ukrainian patients.
In light of their findings, the researchers have recommended that patients from Ukraine should be screened prior to hospital admission.
The findings of the study have been published in the journal Eurosurveillance.
What is Klebsiella pneumoniae?
Klebsiella pneumoniae is a gram-negative bacterium that can cause pneumonia, wound infections, urinary tract infections, as well countless other complications. Due to its resistance to even the strongest antibiotics, which are usually reserved only for severe cases that need to be treated in a hospital, treatment for conditions related to Klebsiella pneumoniae may no longer be possible at all in some extreme cases.
Klebsiella pneumoniae infections often occur in sick patients who are being treated for other conditions. Patients whose care requires devices like ventilators or intravenous catheters, and patients who are taking long courses of certain antibiotics are at the highest risk. Healthy people are not usually affected by Klebsiella infections.
Many people who may seem to be perfectly healthy will often not notice that they have been exposed to these dangerous pathogens. However, in hospitals, these pathogens can be easily transmitted to people who are severely compromised due to illness or injury. Harmful pathogens are often transferred via the hands of medical professionals.
The isolates of Klebsiella pneumonae, which have been increasingly present in German hospitals since the spring of 2022, produce a combination of two different enzymes called carbapenemases. These are NDM-1 and OXA-48, which can resist carbapenem antibiotics.
The link to Ukraine
“We noticed that many of the respective samples had a connection to Ukraine, that the corresponding patients had fled from there, for example, or had been hospitalised in Germany as war casualties,” explained Dr Niels Pfennigwerth from the NRC.
Follow-up investigations revealed that there was a connection, which was also reflected in the surveillance data collected by the researchers from the Robert Koch Institute.
“Our analyses have shown that it is very likely that outbreaks with these bacterial strains have occurred in Germany as a result of the hospitalisation of Ukrainian patients,” said Niels Pfennigwerth.
The Ruhr University Bochum and Robert Koch Institute team, therefore, recommend precautionary screening of persons with a connection to Ukraine when admitted to German hospitals.
“If the screening confirms that the person is infected with the pathogen, they will be isolated in the hospital and very strict hygiene measures will be implemented,” concluded Pfennigwerth.