Bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotic drugs have been found throughout London, including on the underground and in hospitals, new research shows.

Antibiotic resistant bacteria are a serious public health issue, which make the treatment of many infections difficult. Bacteria can acquire resistance either through the selection pressure of antibiotics, or from genetic transfer between cells. Staphylococci bacteria is a species of bacteria that has shown resistance to multiple antibiotics. Therefore, the study aimed to identify if these resistant bacteria were present in public places around London.

600 staphylococci samples were recovered from public areas around London and in hospitals. Samples were taken from locations including door handles, arm rests and hospital waiting rooms across both East London and West London. 281 out of the 600 samples showed multi-drug resistance and the resistant bacteria came from 11 different species.

Different resistant species were found in East and West London. 56% of the samples recovered from East London had multi-drug resistance, compared to just 49.96% from West London. This is thought to be due to the higher population density of East London.

49.5% of the samples from hospitals had multi-drug resistance, which was higher than the 40.7% of samples from public areas. This is likely due to the higher incidence of antibiotic use in hospitals.

80.4% of the multi-drug resistant bacteria were resistant to penicillin, making it the most common antibiotic drug that the bacteria had resistance for . This was closely followed by fusidic acid. Genomic analysis showed that the resistant strains had genes that promoted antibiotic resistance. The most common gene, mecA, was found in 8.2% of all resistant samples.

The study highlights that the problem of antibiotic resistance is not exclusive to hospitals and that immediate action needs to be taken.