In the world of infectious diseases there is a new bacterial strain causing concern and alarm in the medical community. This strain of bacteria is resistant to the majority of available antibiotics and has infected people in three states as well as Canada. The bacterium has infected people globally, according to health officials. The culprit is a rogue gene that causes the bacteria’s resistance to antibiotics.
The cases reported in the United States and Canada share one particular detail in common, each infected individual had received medical care in India. This resistant strain of bacteria is widespread in that country. There is no information as of yet, regarding the number of deaths attributed to this super-bug and the gene responsible for the drug resistant bug is mostly found in bacteria associated with stomach or urinary tract infections. Numerous cases have been reported in England.
Disease specialists have been dreading this day, the day conventional antibiotics fail to do their job. Of greater concern is how quickly a drug resistant strain can spread. Dr. M. Lindsay Grayson, director of infectious diseases at the University of Melbourne in Australia said, “It’s just a matter of time” until the gene spreads more widely from one human to another. Time is something that is in short supply when battling infectious diseases. Unlike flu scares in the past, many doctors who specialize in infectious diseases are preparing for the worst case scenario. The gene responsible is called NDM-1, named for New Delhi, India, where the disease runs rampant.
Cases of NDM-1 were reported in California, Massachusetts and Illinois, according to Brandi Limbago, a lab chief at the CDC. Limbago said, “We want physicians to look for it.” The lab chief stated that doctors should pay special attention to patients who have traveled to India or Pakistan. In the reported cases, three types of bacteria were involved with three separate or different mechanisms that allowed the gene to bond to the bacteria.
The reason India has had such problems is twofold. First, India is an overpopulated country, where antibiotics are overused in an effort to cheaply and effectively treat widespread epidemics. Secondly, tainted water has caused widespread diarrheal diseases and this strain thrives in stomach and intestinal tract areas. Add to this the number of people traveling to and from India, and you have a potential pandemic. Air travel further spreads the disease globally. What can you do?
Do not ask your doctor for antibiotics. Most of them will not work for this strain. If you are prescribed antibiotics, use them correctly. Take the entire course, even if you feel better after a few days. Practice good hygiene, which goes without saying. Most of all don’t panic. Most of these bacterial diseases affect countries with substandard water and plumbing.
The three known cases have survived their ordeal. However, conventional antibiotics didn’t work. It should be noted that all three patients had developed medical problems while traveling in India, which led to the subsequent infection.