A new superbug associated with cosmetic surgery abroad has been found in UK hospitals, and is resistant to one of the most powerful groups of antibiotics.
|Washing hands can prevent the spread of new superbug NDM-1
The bug overtakes bacteria like E. coli and forces it to make an enzyme called NDM-1 (New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase) which is resistant to carbapenems, antibiotics generally used in emergencies and hard to treat infections caused by multi-resistant bacteria.
Experts fear that NDM-1 could jump to other strains of bacteria that are resistant to other antibiotics leading to dangerous infections that could rapidly spread.
“There have been a number of small clusters within the UK, but far and away the greater number of cases appear to be associated with travel and hospital treatment in the Indian subcontinent,” said Dr David Livermore from Cardiff University and the UK Health Protection Agency (HPA), “This type of resistance has become quite widespread there.”
The researcher were prompted to study NDM-1 cases referred to the HPA up to 2009 from hospitals scattered across the UK after the agency issued a National Resistance Alert after noting an increase in the number of cases in the UK. Researchers found that 17 of 37 patients studied had travelled to India or Pakistan within the last year, and 14 of them had been admitted to a hospital in these countries, some for cosmetic surgery.
For some patients the infection was mild, but others were seriously ill and some suffered blood poisoning. Although only 50 cases have been identified in the UK, Livermore believes the threat could be a global health problem as there are few suitable new antibiotics in development, and none to specifically treat NDM-1. Cases are currently treated with a combination of different antibiotics.
Normal infection control measures – disinfecting hospital equipment and washing hands with anti-bacterial soaps – can stop the spread.