Researchers have discovered a gene that makes bacteria resistant to nearly every known antibiotic — and it has the capability to transfer between bacterial species.
“We are potentially at the beginning of another wave of antibiotic resistance, though we still have the power to stop it,” said Christopher Thomas of the University of Birmingham who was not involved in the study.
Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem worldwide, with superbugs such as C. dificile and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) becoming increasingly prevalent.
“Some 90,000 Americans suffer potentially deadly infections each year from a drug-resistant ‘staph superbug,’ ” writes Andreas Moritz in her book Timeless Secrets of Health & Rejuvenation.
“According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, more people now die from these superbugs than from AIDS diseases,” she writes. “Recent nationwide outbreaks of infections caused by superbugs killed teenagers in U.S. schools, reflecting the natural consequence of indiscriminate and irresponsible use of antibiotics in this country. Previously only found in hospital settings, the drug-resistant staph germ is now spreading through prisons, gyms and locker rooms and poor urban neighborhoods.”
Writing in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, researchers said that the antibiotic resistance gene, known as NDM-1, has been detected in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, the United States and Sweden. Most recently, it was detected in 37 people who had returned to the United Kingdom after getting surgery in India or Pakistan. The gene has been detected most frequently in the intestinal bacteria E. coli, but is located on a part of the genome that can easily be copied and transferred between different bacterial species.
“The potential of NDM-1 to be a worldwide public health problem is great, and coordinated international surveillance is needed,” the authors wrote.
In an accompanying commentary, Johann Pitout of the University of Calgary, Canada, said that international health monitoring will be particularly important in countries with significant medical tourism industries.
“The consequences will be serious if family doctors have to treat infections caused by these multi-resistant bacteria on a daily basis,” he wrote.
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