A new study has found a cluster of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in men who have sex with other men.
The study, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Disease last month, was written by lead author Dr. Alex Greninger who is an assistant professor of laboratory medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
According to Newsroom, the study found a cluster, or a group of strains that are closely genetically related, called Campylobacter coli that resists antibiotics via the DNA sequences known as CRISPR, or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. CRISPR is usually obtained after bacteria infect viruses. Fragments of DNA are then inserted back into the bacteria’s genomes. In this study’s case, the drug-resistance gene was included in this newly seen infection.
But again, the study found this infection within several MSM. All of the MSM in the study group lived in Montréal and Seattle and the study suggests that Campylobacter coli is being transmitted between MSM through sex. Researchers then dug through public health records and discovered 400,000 reports of similar clusters.
But what is the campylobacter coli, and what does it do to the human body? It is one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness. Campylobacter can affect around 1.3 million U.S. citizens annually and causes symptoms like severe abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, and fevers.
Most people recover from Campylobacter without treatment, but severe cases or ones involving medically vulnerable people (such as those with other preexisting conditions, the elderly, etc.) can be treated using antibiotics. This is where the concern for this newly mutated cluster comes into play.
When it comes to MSM, Campylobacter acts as yet another case of mutating bacteria and rising STI diagnoses. And yes, Campylobacter does count as an STI.
“Enteric infections can be sexually-transmitted infections,” Greninger said. “The international spread of related isolates among MSM populations has been shown before for Shigella, so it makes sense to see it in Campylobacter, as well.”
As the research team noted, MSM are at a higher risk of contracting multidrug-resistant intestinal pathogens because of sexual practices exposing MSM to intestinal bacteria. In addition, MSM are also more likely to have taken antibiotics to treat sexually-transmitted infections. Thus, this antibiotic-resistant cluster is both a threat to and an effect of MSM’s sexual practices.
“The global emergence of multidrug-resistant enteric pathogens in MSM poses an urgent public health challenge that may require new approaches for surveillance and prevention,” wrote the research team.