The Unkillable NDM-1 Bacteria Is Spreading Across The World
On the heels of the WHO's announcement that the much hyped H1N1 Swine Flu pandemic was finally over, a new superbug is on the horizon. But this one looks like it really means business.
Britain has just welcomed a new visitor, but it's one that it certainly wishes it could deport right back to its native India: Bacteria that create an enzyme named NDM-1 hitched a ride on "medical tourism" Britons who had visited India and Pakistan for various medical treatments such as cosmetic surgeries which are cheaper on the subcontinent.
In a study published in Lancet Infectious Diseases, researchers point to the unstoppable nature of NDM-1 as it seems to resist any antibiotic in the arsenal, and fear that even though only 50 cases are currently in the UK, it could infect millions of people around the world.
NDM-1 is an enzyme and not a bacterium per se. It can exist inside various current bacteria such as E. coli, and provides them with effective resistance against carbapenems which are the most powerful type of antibiotic substances in the medical pantry.
Researchers believe that NDM-1 is now ready to make the jump to other types of bacteria which are already antibiotic resistant, creating a superbug that would shame MRSA in its ability to survive any pharmacological challenge.
The research has shown that the NDM-1 enzyme containing bacteria have already jumped easily from patient to patient in UK NHS hospitals and the potential for a worldwide endemic is "clear and frightening" according to the study's authors.
Medical conditions on the Indian subcontinent may have contributed to the development of the NDM-1 containing bacteria. Control of pharmaceutical substances is almost non-existent as a great number of prescription drugs and especially antibiotics are readily available if you have the cash but no scrip. The abuse of antibiotics is thus universal as any Indian or Pakistani who feels like they're coming down with a bit of a fever can indulge in antibiotic self-medication to their heart's content.
The study published August 11, 2010 stated that Gram-negative Enterobacteriaceae which already had obtained a resistance to the antibiotic group carbapenem as well as had been "invaded" by the New Delhi metallo-ß-lactamase 1 (NDM-1) enzyme have the potential for becoming a "major global health problem".
In the study, Enterobacteriaceae isolates were sampled from two major metropolitan areas in India: Haryana in the north and Chennai in the south, and these isolates were transported to Britain's national medical reference laboratory. The laboratory identified a total of 44 isolates which contained the NDM-1 enzyme in Chennai, another 26 in Haryana, and a total of 37 in the UK, as well as 73 in a variety of other sites in India and Pakistan. The prevalence of the NDM-1 enzyme was primarily identified among Klebsiella pneumoniae where there were 111 occurrences, and Escherichia coli where there were 36 occurrences. These bacteria with the NDM-1 enzyme were found to be were highly resistant to every single antibiotic tested. There was some effectiveness shown by tigecycline and colistin, but it seemed not enough to call those antibiotics a cure or remedy for NDM-1.
NDM-1 merits close surveillance. Maybe now is the time to invest in companies that produce alcohol hand sanitizer!
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