A Belgian man has become the first reported person to die from a drug-resistant “superbug” originating in South Asia. The most powerful antibiotic class of drugs, carbapenems, are reserved as a last resort to treat only the most powerful bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The newly discovered NDM-1 bacterium is apparently resistant to carbapenems and is of very high concern because there are presently no antibiotics in development that will be effective against it.
“There are no new antibiotics that are going to be available in 10 years’ time.”
NDM-1 (New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1) is itself not a bacteria (or virus), but an enzyme that affects and changes a bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics by destroying them. It has been found predominantly on the India continent, and is being spread from people who have traveled there for cheaper medical treatment. It has been reported in the UK, US, Canada, Netherlands and Australia – and now in Europe.
The Belgian victim was infected by the bacteria while being treated in a hospital in Pakistan, says Denis Pierard, a microbiologist from AZ VUB hospital in Brussels where the man had been treated since June.
“He was involved in a car accident during a trip to Pakistan. He was hospitalized with a major leg injury and then repatriated to Belgium, but he was already infected,” the doctor says.
Despite being administered colistin, a powerful antibiotic, the patient died.
A second Belgian picked up the bug after being hospitalized after an accident during a trip to his native Montenegro, but recovered following treatment back in Belgium in July, another expert says, according to news.com.au.
The superbug was first identified last year in a Swedish patient admitted to hospital in India.
British medical journal The Lancet reported this week that bacteria containing the ATM-1 gene had been found in 37 Britons who had received medical treatment in South Asia, while three cases have been reported in Australia.
In an article published in The Lancet, scientists warned that the “drug-resistant bacteria and its worldwide spread could herald a period in which antibiotics become redundant”.
The report, which says health tourists visiting South Asia risked infection and warned the superbug could spread, have sparked a furious response from India.
“To link this with the safety of surgery in hospitals in India and citing isolated examples to show that… India is not a safe place to visit, is wrong,” India’s health ministry says.
However it also emerged the same day that a team of Indian researchers had warned about the superbug in March.
Researchers from the private Hinduja hospital in Mumbai studied 24 infection cases between August and November last year and said they found 22 incidences of bacteria that produced NDM-1.
Their report described the growing number of cases as a “major concern” and warned the superbug “has the potential for further dissemination in the community”.
Peter Collignon, Canberra Hospital’s head of infectious diseases department, said the cases – including one patient who had plastic surgery in Mumbai – were just the “tip of the iceberg”.
Tip Of The Iceberg
“We found this multi-resistant, untreatable bug in their urine, luckily not causing too many problems to that person. But it’s a real problem if it spreads to others,” Collignon says.
“The germ we had was untreatable – there were no drugs we had that could treat it.”
Professor Collignon also says that one of the patients caught the bug in intensive care in an Indian hospital after plastic surgery went wrong. Adding that another person picked up their bug in the general community, indicating the problem could be more extensive.
“There are likely to be more because what you’re picking up in hospitals is just the tip of the iceberg,” he says.
“It probably is killing lots of people but it happens in the developing world and there’s no way of measuring it.”
No Drug Available
One of the greatest problems of today is that bacteria can spread very quickly in a wold of global tourism and travel.
Globalism has dramatically increased the speed of bacteria transmission, and could be the very mechanism to transmit the new NDM-1 SuperBug to the world, the Modern Survival Blog writes.
Drug companies and the pharmaceutical industry make much of their money on high volume.
Drugs that would be developed and reserved for worst case scenarios would theoretically have very little profit associated with them until and unless they became mainstream.
Therefore little research money is likely spent developing such drugs, according to the MSB.
Timothy Walsh, professor at Cardiff University School of Medicine in Great Britain, first identified NDM-1 last year in a patient at a hospital in India. When asked what might be available to treat NDM-1, he says; “there are no new antibiotics that are going to be available in 10 years’ time”.
When the H1N1 swine flu got going, it did spread very rapidly around the world, although thankfully it wasn’t the killer bug that some thought it might be.
Right now, the mortality rate associated with NDM-1 is not determined.
More from news.com.au:
- India denies ‘superbug’ fears Herald Sun, 1 day ago
- Superbug risk in food imports The Australian, 2 days ago
- Superbug gene warning Adelaide Now, 2 days ago
- ‘Handful’ of superbug cases in Australia Adelaide Now, 2 days ago
- Bugs could spell end of antibiotics Adelaide Now, 3 days ago
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