A new gene, NDM-1, has emerged that allows bacteria to be highly resistant to most available antibiotics. The UK now has 37 confirmed cases, all people who have recently been to Pakistan or India for medical treatment or cosmetic surgery.
What is commonly described as super-bugs are bacteria that have become resistant by having been around in hospitals for a long time.
Now, a new gene called NDM-1 (New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase 1) had been detected that enables bacteria to be highly resistant to almost all antibiotics. Having emerged in India, soon spreading to Pakistan and Bangladesh, NDM-1 has now arrived in the United Kingdom, by way of travellers who have been treated in hospitals there during the past year.
The danger lies not so much in the fact that NDM-1 has now been found in Escherichia Coli (E. Coli), but that it may migrate to other bacteria and make those immune against antibiotic treatment as well. Some scientists think that this may eventually lead to the end of antibiotics in general, because they become useless; others seem to think that new forms of medicines will have to be designed to deal with this threat.
Considering that so-called medical tourism is not only booming in England, but in other European countries as well as in the US, experts foresee an international spread in the near future. Virgin Media News reports that Timothy Walsh of Cardiff University and his international colleagues wrote the following: "The potential of NDM-1 to be a worldwide public health problem is great, and co-ordinated international surveillance is needed."
While several reports speak of 37 infected patients, the English site Public Service mentions "around 50 patients in the UK."
NDM-1 does not actually cause a specific disease; the danger lies in the fact that common infections, such as pneumonia, could suddenly become untreatable, because the new gene is even resistant to carbapenem, the most advanced antibiotics doctors have at this moment.
Also on DJ: Norway is beating Superbugs (01/2010) and Cinnamon oil seen as beneficial against hard-to-kill bacteria (09/2009)