Saturday, August 20

Health Ministry monitoring possible entry of Indian bacteria-carrying superbug

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KUCHING: A new ‘superbug’ called NDM-1 which is highly resistant to almost all antibiotics, could be spreading around the globe right now.

Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai

The Health Ministry said it would take steps or efforts to detect cases involving this bacteria-carrying superbug.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the Medical Research Institute (MRI) had been directed to carry out tests to identify and confirm the presence of bacteria-carrying NDM-1 gene in the country.

He said surveillance and measures have been initiated and hospitals nationwide have been asked to send samples of bacteria which show strong resistant to antibiotics to the MRI immediately for further examination.

“As of now, there is no patient infected by the superbug bacteria in this country,” Liow was quoted as saying.

“The institute has selected 18 samples of bacteria showing high resistant patterns and only one is positive towards the NDM-1 gene,” he said.

“However, it is only a ‘coloniser’ which will not bring any sickness to a cancer patient but only a carrier.

“Further tests in that sample from the cancer patient showed negative result.”

Liow said the ministry would continue to monitor the situation and take preventive steps to ensure that the bacteria did not spread in the country.

Reuters’ news portal in August stated that the superbug from India could spread around the world, in part because of medical tourism, and scientists said there are almost no drugs to treat it.

Researchers said they had found a new gene called New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase, or NDM-1, in patients in South Asia and in Britain.

Health officials in the United States  said  there had been three cases so far in the US, all from patients who received recent medical care in India, a country where people often travel in search of affordable healthcare.

NDM-1 makes bacteria highly resistant to almost all antibiotics, including the most powerful class called carbapenems.

Walsh’s team from Britain’s Cardiff University revealed that because of medical tourism and international travel in general, the bacteria has the potential to spread around the world very, very quickly, and there is nothing in the drug development pipeline to tackle it.

An information on ‘www.emedicinehealth.com’ website mentioned that the major sign or symptom that a person is infected with bacteria carrying NDM-1 is failure of antibiotic treatment (oral or IV) to improve the patient’s condition, especially if the patient is infected with a gram-negative bacterial type and is being treated with an antibiotic that contains a beta-lactam ring structure.

In addition, if the person has gone to another country (for example, India) for elective surgery or was recently treated with antibiotics for an infection, caregivers should be suspicious that a bacteria producing NDM-1 may be causing the infection.

Currently, these are the major clues to suggest infection with NDM-1.

Because NDM-1 can be carried by several types of gram-negative bacteria, the signs and symptoms of the diseases are of little or no help in distinguishing whether the patient has an organism expressing the enzyme until antibiotic treatments fail.

However, because gram-negative bacteria are known to cause many diseases (for example, gastrointestinal problems, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and some wound infections), patients with these diseases that require antibiotic treatments and are not recovering appropriately with treatments should have the gram-negative bacteria isolated and tested for antibiotic resistance.