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Child health: Around half of all sand boxes have dangerous pathogens


Clostridium difficile is widespread and endangers the health of our children
Parents actually try to protect their children from every conceivable health hazard. But sometimes there are dangers lurking where we least expect them. Researchers have now found that a dangerous pathogen can be found in about half of all sandboxes.

The scientists at the Complutense University of Madrid found in their investigation that almost half of all sandboxes contain a pathogen that is a health hazard. This can lead to vomiting and diarrhea in children and may even require surgery to treat it. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Zoonoses and Public Health".

Strains of Clostridium difficile resistant to various medications
Some of the strains of Clostridium difficile are known as so-called super-pathogens. These pathogens are resistant to various medications. Clostridium difficile causes watery diarrhea, painful abdominal cramps, nausea, dehydration, fever and loss of appetite, the authors explain. Severe infections can even require surgery to remove a damaged section of the intestine.

Some serious infections require removal of sections of the intestine
The current study found about twice the amount of bacterial strains in the sand of public parks compared to the values ​​from a study in 1996. The floor of the playgrounds is a reservoir of various parasites and infectious agents, the scientists say. In addition, free access to pets and wild animals could increase the burden of microbiological contamination. Children are generally seen as the main risk group for this environmental contamination with pathogens, the experts explain. One reason is that children are the main users of playgrounds.

What is Clostridium difficile?
Clostridium difficile is a so-called anaerobic bacterium that spreads in the environment and can survive under unfavorable conditions through the production of spores. This bacterial species has traditionally been viewed as a primary nosocomial pathogen (hospital germ), the researchers explain. In recent years, however, the incidence of Clostridium difficile infections (CDI) has also increased in people outside of hospitals. In this context, various animal species, food products and environmental sources were assumed to be carriers. The presence of Clostridium difficile in sandboxes on playgrounds has so far been researched only to a limited extent, the scientists say.

Experts examine forty sandpits in the Madrid area
For their study, the researchers examined 20 sandboxes for children or for dogs in different playgrounds in Madrid. A total of 52.5 percent or 21 out of 40 samples were positive for the presence of C. difficile. Eight of the twenty available isolates belonged to the toxigenic ribotypes 014, 106 and CD047, the doctors explain.

Many older studies did not take pathogens such as Clostridium difficile into account
The growing number of pets and other animals that leave excrement in the sandboxes of playgrounds and other recreational areas poses a serious epidemiological threat, explains Prof. Blanco. Current tests to assess the sanitary conditions of sandboxes focus on the detection of some selected pathogenic parasites and bacterial indicators of faecal contamination. Most of these tests neglect the possible presence of other emerging pathogens such as Clostridium difficile, the expert adds.

Pathogens are widespread and have resistance to various antibiotics
The current study found that Clostridium difficile is widespread in soil samples from children's and dog sandboxes in the Madrid region, the authors say. In addition, our results showed that restored isolates were genetically diverse and showed resistance to various antibiotics, the researchers explain. These included, for example, resistance to the two drugs imipenem and levofloxacin. (as)

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