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New ‘superbug’ scare emerges from India, Pakistan

By Sola Ogundipe

NIGERIANS seeking medical treatment from health facilities in India and Pakistan may be at risk of contracting a new superbug infection that is said to be resistant to virtually all known antibiotics.

The infection which makes an enzyme called the New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase 1 (NDM-1), was first detected in a Swedish patient admitted to an undisclosed hospital in India.

Although only few cases of the infection have been reported so far in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, experts are worried about the significant risk of a global spread.

Several hundreds of thousands of patients travel to India and Pakistan from Nigeria for elective surgery every year. The new gene which is said to be capable of enabling a bacterium to become highly resistant to nearly all existing antibiotics, is believed to travel back home in patients after surgery.

In a Report published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, it was stated that time has come for extremely close international monitoring and surveillance, as antibiotics may become redundant with the rapid emergence of these multi-drug resistant NDM-1 producing bacteria and their potential worldwide spread.

The Report noted that researchers in Cardiff University, Wales and an international team, first detected the NDM-1 gene in Klebsiella pneumonia and Escherichia coli bacteria taken from a Swedish patient admitted to hospital in India.

According to the Report, bacteria that produce NDM-1 are so powerful they are resistant to Carbapenems – a group of antibiotics generally reserved for use in emergencies and the treatment of infections caused by multi-resistant bacteria.

Researchers set out to investigate how common the NDM-1 producing antibiotic resistant bacteria are in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan and determined the implications of the bacteria spreading through patients returning from that part of the world after elective medical procedures.

They collected samples of bacteria from patients with a wide variety of hospital and community-associated infections in Channai and Haryana, and from individuals referred to the UK’s national reference laboratory between 2007 and 2009.

Tests identified NDM-1-positive bacteria in Chennai, Haryana, the United Kingdom, and in other sites in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan.

From the study, NDM-1 was mostly found in E. coli and K pneumoniae.


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