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Role Of Gut Microbiota In Travel-Related Acquisition

Of Extended Spectrum β-lactamase-Producing Enterobacteriaceae

What a week for the Tun Lab!

After their publication in Gastroenterology and the award they received at the 2021 Inventions Geneva Evaluation Days for the “Innovative Sewage Testing Tool for SARS-CoV-2” project, Hein Min Tun and PhD student Ye Peng publish in the Journal of Travel Medicine (Oxford Academic) about the role of gut microbiota in the acquisition of antimicrobial resistant bacteria during international travels.



International travel could facilitate the spread of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria including extended spectrum β-lactamase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (ESBL-E). Previous studies, which attempted to understand the role of gut microbiota in the acquisition of antimicrobial resistant bacteria during international travels, are limited to western travellers.


We established a prospective cohort of 90 Hong Kong travellers to investigate gut microbiota determinants and associated risk factors for the acquisition of ESBL-E. Baseline characteristics and travel-associated risk factors were gathered through questionnaires. Faecal samples were collected in 3-4 days before and after travel. Antimicrobial susceptibility of ESBL-E isolates was tested, and gut microbiota were profiled by 16S rDNA amplicon sequencing. Non-parametric tests were used to detect potential associations, and logistic regression models were used to quantify the associations. Random forest models were constructed to identify microbial predictors for ESBL-E acquisition.


In total, 49 (54.4%) participants were tested negative for ESBL-E colonization before travel and were followed up after travel. A total of 60 ESBL-E isolates were cultured from 20 (40.8%) participants. Having low Actinobacteria richness and low abundance of short-chain fatty acid-producing bacteria in the gut microbiota before travel increased the risk of acquiring ESBL-E and the risk can be further exacerbated by eating raw seafood during travel. Besides, post-travel ESBL-E positive participants had increased abundances of several opportunistic pathogens such as Staphylococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia/Shigella and Klebsiella. The random forest model integrating pre-travel microbiota and the identified travel-related risk factor could predict ESBL-E acquisition with an area under the curve of 75.4% (95% confidence interval: 57.9–93.0%).


In this study, we identified both travel-related risk factors and microbiota predictors for the risk of ESBL-E acquisition. Our results provide foundational knowledge for future developments of microbiota-based interventions to prevent ESBL-E acquisition during international travels.


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