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While 20–80% of regular visitors to (sub)tropical regions become colonised by extended-spectrum β-lactamase-producing (ESBL-PE), those hospitalised abroad often also carry other multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacteria on return; the rates are presumed to be highest for interhospital transfers.


This observational study assessed MDR bacterial colonisation among patients transferred directly from hospitals abroad to Helsinki University Hospital. We investigated predisposing factors, clinical infections and associated fatalities.


Data were derived from screening and from diagnostic samples collected between 2010 and 2019. Risk factors of colonisation were identified by multivariable analysis. Microbiologically verified symptomatic infections and infection-related mortality were recorded during post-transfer hospitalisation.


Colonisation rates proved highest for transfers from Asia (69/96; 71.9%) and lowest for those within Europe (99/524; 18.9%). Of all 698 patients, 208 (29.8%) were colonised; among those, 163 (78.4%) carried ESBL-PE, 28 (13.5%) MDR species, 25 (12.0%) meticillin-resistant , 25 (12.0%) vancomycin-resistant , 14 (6.7%) carbapenemase-producing , and 12 (5.8%) MDR ; 46 strains tested carbapenemase gene-positive. In multivariable analysis, geographical region, intensive care unit (ICU) treatment and antibiotic use abroad proved to be risk factors for colonisation. Clinical MDR infections, two of them fatal (1.0%), were recorded for 22 of 208 (10.6%) MDR carriers.


Colonisation by MDR bacteria was common among patients transferred from foreign hospitals. Region of hospitalisation, ICU treatment and antibiotic use were identified as predisposing factors. Within 30 days after transfer, MDR colonisation manifested as clinical infection in more than 10% of the carriers.


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