Hospital germs lurk in amoebas
The multi-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (MRSA), feared as a risk of infection, outlast hygiene measures in a previously unrecognized habitat niche of hospitals: They live and multiply in amoebas. These protozoa, which are not harmful in themselves, often thrive in drains and hand wash basins in hospitals, according to scientists from the University of Bath.
The researchers led by Mike Brown had investigated the development of MRSA bacteria in the amoeba Acanthamoeba polyphaga in the laboratory. Not only did the germs survive being ingested by the amoeba, the bacteria also grew in the presence of the protozoa into colonies a thousand times larger. Similar interactions between amoebas and bacteria growing in them have already been described for the causative agent of Legionnaires' disease, Legionella pneumophila.
Amoebas exist wherever they find even small amounts of water. Brown and colleagues warn that the protozoa can spread with the help of carried-over droplets and even get into flower vases or open drinking vessels of patients, especially after hospital staff wash their hands frequently, which is recommended for hospital hygiene. They consider it urgently necessary not only to think of bacterial spread when it comes to hygiene measures. In practice, there is still a lack of understanding of the spread of pathogens.