'Time bomb' superbug requires global response

A new superbug from India thought to be resistant to nearly every known antibiotic poses a global threat, scientists warned Monday, urging health authorities to track the bacteria.

"There is an urgent need, first, to put in place an international surveillance system over the coming months and, second, to test all the patients admitted to any given health system" in as many countries as possible, said Patrice Nordmann of France's Bicetre Hospital.

"For the moment, we don't know how fast this phenomenon is spreading... it could take months or years, but what is certain is that is will spread," he told AFP, noting that measures have already been agreed in France and are under discussion in Japan, Singapore and China.

"It's a bit like a time bomb."

Nordmann was in Boston for the 50th annual meeting of the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC), the world's largest gathering of infectious disease specialists, which is drawing some 12,000 people here September 12-14.

The head of Bicetre's department of bacteriology and virology said the bacteria will find fertile ground in India's vast population of 1.3 billion, and could easily be carried back and forth by the country's widespread diaspora.

The so-called "superbug," dubbed NDM-1 (New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase 1), and its variants appear to have originated in India and were first detected in Britain in 2007.

The NDM-1 is a gene that produces an enzyme that deactivate basically all antibiotics.

After the bug was detected, the number of infected people began to increase, reaching more than 70 in Britain and more than 170 in India and Pakistan.

The bug attracted media attention after the August publication of a research article in Britain's Lancet journal that said an Indian "medical tourist" appeared to have brought the bacteria to Britain.

After the article, cases were reported in Canada, the United States, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria, France, Germany, Kenya, Australia, Hong Kong and Japan.

A Belgian citizen hospitalized in Pakistan after a car accident was the first known death related to infection by the superbug.

Unlike other multi-drug resistant bugs reported during the last 20 years, NDM "brings several additional factors of deep concern for public health," said Nordmann.

For example, scientists have determined that the NDM gene "is very mobile, hopping from one bacteria to another," he said.

Specialists can help "stem the onslaught of DNM producers" through "early identification of the very first cases of NDM-related infections and preventing their spread by implementing screening, hygiene measures and isolation of carriers," Nordmann said.

Timothy Walsh with Cardiff University in Britain, who first uncovered the gene and wrote the Lancet report, worried that experts did not know how wide the bug had spread in India.

"One of the great concerns is the lack of sanitation - more than 600 million people in India don't have sanitation - and also because of the massive antibiotic use in those countries that can fuel the antibiotic resistance," Walsh said.

Drug resistance in bacteria, blamed on excessive and improper use of antibiotics, is not new, and health experts warn of an increasingly dangerous environment where the problem can flourish.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

    £12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

    Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss