Health Alert: Scientists Worry Over Spread Of New Superbug
LONDON — A new superbug could spread around the world after reaching Britain from India -- in part because of medical tourism -- and scientists say there are almost no drugs to treat it.
The superbug has so far been identified in 37 people who returned to the U.K. after undergoing surgery in India or Pakistan.
In an article published online Wednesday in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, doctors reported finding a new gene, called NDM-1. NDM-1 makes bacteria highly resistant to almost all known antibiotics, including the most powerful class called carbapenems, and experts say there are no new drugs on the horizon to tackle it. It has been seen largely in E. coli bacteria, the most common cause of urinary tract infections, and on DNA structures that can be easily copied and passed onto other types of bacteria.
The NDM-1 superbug is becoming more common in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan and is also being imported back to Britain in patients returning after treatment.
"India also provides cosmetic surgery for other Europeans and Americans, and it is likely NDM-1 will spread worldwide," the scientists wrote in the study.
Aside from the U.K., the resistant gene has also been detected in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, the U.S. and Sweden.
"The potential of NDM-1 to be a worldwide public health problem is great, and coordinated international surveillance is needed," the authors wrote. "The spread of these multi-resistant bacteria merits very close monitoring," wrote Johann Pitout of the division of microbiology at the University of Calgary, Canada, in an accompanying commentary.
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