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Deadly New Superbug Unleashed

By James Donahue

A new gene that apparently had its origins in India, called the New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase, or NDM-1 for short, is found to be attaching itself to existing bacteria and turning common infections into deadly killer diseases.

According to an article recently published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases Journal, in its Aug. 11 edition, the invaded bacteria turns into a superbug that appears resistant to almost all forms of antibiotics, including the most powerful class of carbapenems.

That means once a person picks up this new strain of bacteria, there is no known cure. The disease will run its course, which probably will end in the death of the patient.

How serious is NDM-1? It appears that because India offers medical procedures at lower costs than people can get them in the United States and cosmetic surgeries not covered under even socialized medicine in Europe, people are picking up this superbug in Indian hospitals, and coming home infected.

While the numbers remain relatively low to date, NDM-1 infections have been reported in the United States, Canada, Australia, the UK, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Netherlands. Infections have been found to have been passed from patient to patient in some UK hospitals.

The Lancet report said the NDM-1 gene is carried by bacterium that causes gastric problems. It enters the blood stream and is capable of causing multiple organ failure. It also has the ability to spread rapidly and not only jump from patient to patient, but also jump across different bacterial genes.

International medical researchers warn that NDM-1 may become a major global health problem. That is because the superbug appears to spread rapidly from person to person and at least one form has been shown to be resistant to all known antibiotics.

Fortunately, most other bacteria carrying NDM-1 have been treatable using a combination of different antibiotics.

The only way to head off a possible global endemic of this new superbug is for medical staffers to rapidly identify and isolate any hospital patients that become infected. It is urgent that normal infection-control measures, including disinfecting hospital equipment, beds, furnishings, walls and floors, and nurses and other staffers constantly washing their hands with antibacterial soap.