Wednesday, August 11, 2010
New 'superbug' found in UK hospitals
A new superbug that is resistant to even the most powerful antibiotics has entered UK hospitals, experts warn.
They say bacteria that make an enzyme called NDM-1 have travelled back with NHS patients who went abroad to countries like India and Pakistan for treatments such as cosmetic surgery.
According to a Lancet paper, at least 17 of the 37 patients they studied had a history of travelling to India or Pakistan within the past year, and 14 of them had been admitted to a hospital in these countries - many for cosmetic surgery.
Although there have only been about 50 cases identified in the UK so far, scientists fear it will go global. Tight surveillance and new drugs are needed says Lancet Infectious Diseases.
NDM-1 can exist inside different bacteria, like E.coli, and it makes them resistant to one of the most powerful groups of antibiotics - carbapenems.
The fear would be that it gets into a strain of bacteria that is very good at being transmitted between patients” Dr David Livermore Researcher from the HPA (UK's Health Protection Agency)
And experts fear NDM-1 could now jump to other strains of bacteria that are already resistant to many other antibiotics.Ultimately, this could produce dangerous infections that would spread rapidly from person to person and be almost impossible to treat.
Infections have already been passed from patient to patient in UK hospitals.
At least one of the NDM-1 infections the researchers analysed was resistant to all known antibiotics.
Similar infections have been seen in the US, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands and international researchers say that NDM-1 could become a major global health problem.
The way to stop NDM-1, is to rapidly identify and isolate any hospital patients who are infected. Normal infection control measures, such as disinfecting hospital equipment and doctors and nurses washing their hands with antibacterial soap, can stop the spread.
GOOD NEWS! currently, most of the bacteria carrying NDM-1 have been treatable using a combination of different antibiotics.
BAD NEWS! The potential of NDM-1 to become endemic worldwide is "clear and frightening", say the researchers in their Lancet paper.
The Department of Health has already put out an alert on the issue since the threat is a serious global public health problem as there are few suitable new antibiotics in development and none that are effective against NDM-1.
By Michelle Roberts Health reporter, BBC News