Traveling Abroad? Careful What You Carry Back… In Your Guts

Maryn McKenna | Wired | April 10, 2014

If you do any kind of challenging travel — adventure travel, backpacking, even just going to less-developed parts of the world — you’ve probably evolved some sort of protective routine. You get shots, take your malaria medication, wash raw things before eating them and take a water filter for the bad places. (Please tell me you do this. Condoms, too.)

But a new study just published in EuroSurveillance, the peer-reviewed journal of Europe’s equivalent of the CDC, raises the possibility that even if you are doing the right thing, you could pick up some very nasty stuff while you’re abroad — and that what you bring back could endanger not only you, but others around you as well. A team of French researchers reports that healthy travelers who had no contact with foreign medical systems brought back extremely drug-resistant bacteria, probably just from drinking water, and that the bacteria persisted in their guts for at least two months after they came home.

In the past several years, travelers from South and Southeast Asia and the Balkans have returned to western Europe with infections caused by bacteria that picked up extra DNA conferring extreme drug resistance. [...]