Superbug from India causes scare in Britain

August 11th, 2010 - 7:33 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 11 (IANS) A superbug that is fiercely resistant to antibiotics with “an alarming potential to spread” has caused a scare in Britain.
Thirty-seven cases have already been reported, mainly among patients who had travelled to India and Pakistan, for cosmetic surgery, cancer treatment and transplants.

Scientists have warned that the superbug - an enzyme called New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1 or NDM-1, could spread worldwide because it is resistant to almost all antibiotics and nothing has been developed to combat it, reports the Daily Mail.

NDM-1 was identified in 2009 by Cardiff University’s Timothy Walsh in two types of bacteria - Klebsiella pneumoniae and Escherichia coli - in a Swedish patient admitted to a hospital in India.

What makes the enzyme more dangerous is that it can jump easily from one bacterium to another. Experts fear it will start attaching itself to more dangerous diseases causing them to become resistant to antibiotics.

David Livermore of the Health Protection Agency in Britain, who co-wrote the research with Walsh, said: “The NDM-1 problem is likely to get progressively worse in the foreseeable future.”

“The potential for wider international spread and for NDM-1 to become endemic worldwide are clear and frightening,” he added.

The superbug was found attached to E.coli bacteria that cause urinary tract and respiratory infections.

In 2009, the Health Protection Agency issued an alert reporting that NDM-1 was resistant to most antibiotics.

However, a study in The Lancet confirmed Britain to be the first western country to register the “widespread presence” of the bacteria.

The researchers said this was “unsurprising” given the “historical links between India and Britain”.

They added that the bacteria will probably spread worldwide as India provides cheaper cosmetic surgery for Europe and the US as well.

A team of experts has tracked the enzyme in Britain, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and believes it to be more widespread than first thought.

It is said to be resistant even to a class of antibiotics known as carbapenems, which are reserved for use in emergencies and used when bacteria are found to be resistant to more commonly prescribed antibiotics.

Worryingly, there are only two antibiotics that work against NDM-1 and the likelihood is that they will also be overcome before long.

“In many ways, this is it. This is potentially the end. There are no antibiotics in the pipeline,” Walsh said.

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