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New 'superbug' originating from India, Pakistan?

August 12, 2010 08:30 IST

A new superbug resistant even to most powerful antibiotics has entered UK hospitals, travelling with patients who had gone to countries like India and Pakistan for surgical treatments.

Quoting experts, BBC has claimed that bacteria that make an enzyme called NDM-1 or New Delhi-Metallo-1, have travelled back with NHS patients who went abroad to countries like India and Pakistan for treatments such as 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 Ecoli, and it makes them resistant to one of the most powerful groups of antibiotics -- carbapenems.

These are generally reserved for use in emergencies and to combat hard-to-treat infections caused by other multi-resistant bacteria.

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.

Infections have already been passed from patient to patient in UK hospitals.

Dr David Livermore, one of the researchers and who works for the UK's Health Protection Agency (HPA), said: "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."

"This type of resistance has become quite widespread there. The fear would be that it gets into a strain of bacteria that is very good at being transmitted between patients."

The Department of Health has already put out an alert on the issue, he said.

"We issue these alerts very sparingly when we see new and disturbing resistance."

The National Resistance Alert came in 2009 after the HPA noted an increasing number of cases -- some fatal -- emerging in the UK.

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.

For some of the patients the infection was mild, while others were seriously ill, and some with blood poisoning.

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