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Antimicrobial resistance is increasing rapidly in countries with low hygiene levels and poorly controlled antimicrobial use. The spread of resistant bacteria poses a threat to healthcare worldwide. Refugees and migrants from high-prevalence countries may add to a rise in multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacteria in low-prevalence countries. However, respective data are scarce.


We retrospectively collected microbiological and clinical data from asylum seekers and refugees treated at Helsinki University Hospital between January 2010 and August 2017.


Of 447 asylum seekers and refugees (Iraq: 46.5%; Afghanistan: 10.3%; Syria: 9.6%, Somalia: 6.9%); 45.0% were colonised by MDR bacteria: 32.9% had extended-spectrum beta-lactamase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (ESBL-PE), 21.3% meticillin-resistant (MRSA), 0.7% carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE), 0.4% multiresistant (MRPA), 0.4% multiresistant (MRAB); no vancomycin-resistant (VRE) were found. Two or more MDR bacteria strains were recorded for 12.5% of patients. Multivariable analysis revealed geographical region and prior surgery outside Nordic countries as risk factors of MRSA colonisation. Young age (< 6 years old), short time from arrival to first sample, and prior hospitalisation outside Nordic countries were risk factors of ESBL-PE colonisation.


We found MDR bacterial colonisation to be common among asylum seekers and refugees arriving from current conflict zones. In particular we found a high prevalence of MRSA. Refugees and migrants should, therefore, be included among risk populations requiring MDR screening and infection control measures at hospitals.


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