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Brian Sullivan

SuperBugs Found in Three States – Is this the beginning?

» Written by // September 27, 2010 // ,


A superbug is threatening to make germs impervious to many antibiotics. The gene called NDM-1, has caused people to become sick in three states in the U.S. as well as Canada, and the bug is beginning to show itself all over the world.

According to the Huffington Post reports:

“People traveling to India for medical procedures have brought back to Britain a new gene that allows any bacteria to become a superbug, and scientists are warning this type of drug resistance could soon appear worldwide. Experts warn that booming medical tourism industries in India and Pakistan could fuel a surge in antibiotic resistance, as patients import dangerous bugs to their home countries.”

“Antibiotics are now failing to do their job and disease specialists are concerned. More of a concern is how quickly the gene can spread. Dr. M. Lindsay Grayson, director of infectious disease at the University of Melbourne in Australia said, “It’s just a matter of time until the gene spreads more widely from one human to another.” So far the gene has mostly been found in bacteria that causes stomach or urinary infections.”

The gene, NDM-1 was named for New Delhi and has doctors and scientists worried. “The U.S. cases occurred this year in people from California, Massachusetts and Illinois,” said Brandi Limbago, a lab chief at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We want physicians to look for it, especially in patients who have traveled recently to India or Pakistan,” she said.

The NDM-1 gene works by producing an enzyme that safeguards bacteria against certain antibiotics, including penicillin. These antibiotics have a ringed structure which acts to halt the replication of bacteria. The enzyme breaks this ring, rendering the drug ineffective. The ‘last resort’ antibiotic called carbapenems, are tended to be used when all else fails. However, the NDM-1 is resistant to powerful carbapenems too and can be transferred between different bacteria to make them resistant to most drugs. The gene is spreading in India, which some doctors expected. “There is little drug control in India and an irrational use of antibiotics,” said a Delhi-based physician. Dr. Patrice Nordmann, a microbiology professor at South-Paris Medical School agrees and says the ‘ingredients are there’ for widespread transmission. “India is an overpopulated country that overuses antibiotics and has widespread diarrheal disease and many people without clean water,” says Nordmann. “It’s going to spread by plane all over the world.”

The debate is now centering on the overuse of antibiotics and experts are saying that the human body will eventually become immune to the antibiotics we currently use. So what can you do to help your chances of not being affected by NDM-1? Doctors say that patients shouldn’t ask for antibiotics for colds and do not use them if you do not need them. They also recommend that patients take all of the medication prescribed properly and to not stop using the drug half way through the prescription. Stopping half way through treatment can cause the body to build up tolerance to that drug. Experts also advise that you shouldn’t add to the drug resistance problem by pressuring your doctor for antibiotics if they aren’t needed and perhaps the most effective step you can take is wash your hands to try to avoid infections. The gene is carried by bacteria that can spread hand-to-mouth, which makes good hygiene very important.


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