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Treatment resistant superbug identified in the UK

Treatment resistant superbug identified Scientists warn of worldwide public health problem

A new superbug resistant to almost all antibiotics has been identified in the UK, with scientists claiming it has the potential to become "a worldwide public health problem."

The gene, called New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase, or NDM-1, was identified in people who had undergone medical treatment in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, with 143 people testing for the bug in the region, and 37 in Britain. Several British patients had recently travelled to the region for cosmetic surgery or other treatment.

Alarmingly, the bacteria producing NDM-1 are resistant to many antibiotics including carbapenems, which are used to treat other highly resistant bacteria like MRSA and C-Difficile.

The gene was mostly found in E. coli, which is a common cause of urinary tract infections and pneumonia. The study said NDM-1 could easily replicate and move between bacteria, which means it has "an alarming potential to spread and diversify among bacterial populations".

The scientists, led by Timothy Walsh from Cardiff University, wrote: "India also provides cosmetic surgery for other Europeans and Americans, and it is likely NDM-1 will spread worldwide."

Commenting on the study, which was published in the Lancet medical journal, Johann Pitout from the University of Calgary said: "If this emerging public health threat is ignored, sooner or later the medical community could be confronted with carbapenem-resistant (bacteria) that cause common infections, resulting in treatment failures with substantial increases in health-care costs."

The study collected patient samples in India and the UK between 2007 and 2009.

This article was published on Wed 11 August 2010

Image © Janice Haney Carr (CDC)

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