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Research on refugee health underlines need for screening programmes in host countries

Seven abstracts highlight the need for comprehensive screening programmes, improved therapy and vaccination coverage in countries receiving large numbers of refugees. Researchers have observed increased prevalence of resistant pathogens or emerging or re-emerging infectious diseases including HIV, tuberculosis, Salmonella, Shigella, scabies and other parasitic infections in refugees and migrants, according to data presented at ECCMID 2016, the annual meeting of the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease (ESCMID).

Politicians and health professionals across the world are facing a number of unique public health challenges due to an increasing number of migrants. At a session dedicated to late-breaking abstracts on refugee health researchers presented evidence on some of the challenges faced by healthcare services in Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Taiwan, Norway, Brazil and the Netherlands as a result of an increase in migration.

Abstract No.: 7583 Incidence of HIV infection and late presentation for HIV care among refugees and family-reunified migrants compared to Danish-born individuals

A study comparing 405 migrants and 279 Danish-born citizens in Denmark showed that the incidence of HIV infection among refugees and family-reunified migrants is higher than that of Danish-born individuals. The highest risk was observed in sub-Saharan Africans and heterosexual cohorts, and refugee and family-reunified migrants were also more likely to seek medical treatment late, further increasing the risk of spreading the infection. The researchers postulated that these results indicate migrants experience barriers in accessing HIV testing and call for a more systematic medical reception of newly arrived migrants in recipient countries.

Abstract No.: 7019 MRSA and ESBL prevalence in four Swiss refugee centres

An abstract on the prevalence of drug-resistant pathogens at Swiss refugee centres showed that refugees (irrespective of origin) had colonization rates that were ten times higher for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and five times higher for extended spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) compared to the local population. The researchers also observed that more than a third of refugees from the Middle East were colonized by ESBL compared with less than a quarter in the general refugee population. The authors concluded that the increased rate of colonization at body surfaces with resistant bacteria among refugees from certain areas needs to be taken into account in case of illness and admission to a hospital