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The impact of armed conflict on the development and global spread of antibiotic resistance: a systematic review.

BACKGROUND: Scant data are available on the link between armed conflicts and the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance.

OBJECTIVES: We perfomed a systematic review with the aim to summarise the available data on the prevalence and features of antibiotic resistance and the causes of antibiotic resistance development during armed conflicts in the twenty-first century.

METHODS: Data sources: PubMed and SCOPUS databases were searched from 1 January 2000 to 30 November 2023.

STUDY ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA: Original articles reporting data on armed conflicts and antimicrobial resistance were included in this systematic review. No attempt was made to obtain information from unpublished studies. No language restriction was applied. Methods of data synthesis: Both quantitative and qualitative information were summarised by means of textual descriptions.

PARTICIPANTS: Patients or soldiers deployed in armed conflict zones.

TESTS: culture-dependent antibiotic sensitivity testing or molecular detection of of the genetic determinants of antibiotic resistance after a confirmed diagnosis of bacterial infection. Assessment of risk of bias: To evaluate the quality of the included studies, we adapted the tool recommended by the Joanna Briggs Institute.

RESULTS: Thirty-four studies were identified, published from November 2004 to November 2023. The quality of included studies was high and medium in 47% and 53% of the studies, respectively. The included studies reported high infection and colonisation rates of multidrug-resistant bacteria. Studies performed during the Eastern Ukraine conflict reported high rates of New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase producers.

DISCUSSION: Our findings confirm that wars lead to a large pool of multidrug-resistant infections that could potentially spread. Infection control in healthcare facilities in conflict zones and proper antimicrobial stewardship are crucial.

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