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article imageSuper-bug NDM-1: first known fatality, more infections worldwide

By R. C. Camphausen     Aug 14, 2010 in Health
Brussels - A man in Belgium became the first known victim of the new super-bug known as NDM-1. While India complains about having been named as the bug's ultimate source, more countries are being added to the list of where infections have been found.
An unnamed patient became infected while hospitalised in Pakistan and died in Belgium last June, a doctor from a Brussels hospital told Belgian media on Friday. 'He was involved in a car accident during a trip to Pakistan. He was hospitalised with a major leg injury and then repatriated to Belgium, but he was already infected,' the doctor said, according to the website of the Singapore based Strait Times. The same article quotes Youri Glupczynski, a bacteriologist from the University of Leuven, as saying that "The epicentre of the presence of this bacteria seems to be India and Pakistan, but it appears through contact and travel, its spread is becoming wider."
Basic information about NDM-1, the initials chosen for India's capital New Delhi, has been provided in an earlier Digital Journal report, but at the time it was only known that 37 to 50 patients had been located in UK hospitals, most of who had previously been in medical facilities in India, Pakistan, or Bangladesh.
Today, partly because of media attention, it appears that more patients have been located in many more countries, and that the drug-resistant bug has actually appeared in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United States.
While Indian politicians are very upset at the suggestion that the New Delhi metallo-lactamase-1 (NDM-1) infection has been claimed by British scientists to originate in India, the signs are rather clear that it did. While the Indian health ministry said it was unfair to link the bug to India, and officials described this as "malicious propaganda," an article in the Times of India shows that a typical Indian hospital has "isolated the super bacteria in 22 patients within a span of three months".
India, where medical tourism has been booming lately -- including but not limited to cosmetic surgery -- seems clearly afraid to loose that business, but some of its own doctors agree with findings of the British scientists who brought this problem to the world's attention. Already in March, Dr Ghafur for example wrote "Our country, India, is the world leader in antibiotic resistance; in no other country have antibiotics been misused to such an extent."
Nevertheless, the official line by the Indian health ministry is expressed like this:
"We strongly refute the naming of this enzyme as New Delhi metallo beta lactamase. We also refute that hospitals in India are not safe for treatment, including medical tourism."
Please note
NDM-1 is not really a bug that creates a disease. NDM-1 (New Delhi metallo-β-lactamase 1) is a gene that synthesizes an enzyme known as carbapenemase, and it is this enzyme that's responsible for making a given (host) bacterium resistant to antibiotics.
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