New Delhi superbug not so Indian, finds UK study

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Apr 29, 2014 22:45 IST

A superbug named 'New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase' -- first discovered in Britain in 2008 in a female patient who had travelled to India and had been hospitalised in New Delhi -- remains a "growing challenge", but most of the 250 patients studied did not have an India link, says a new study.

The study, which analysed 326 bacterial isolates from 250 patients collected since 2008, reports that the Balkans was another source of the superbug.

The discovery of the superbug in 2008 had sparked a major alert in British hospitals and became an emotional rallying point in India.

According to the study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, travel history was known for only 101 of 250 (40%) of the cases and 41% had no history of overseas travel. Of these 101, only 53 (21% of the total cases) had documented contact with healthcare services or travel to the Indian subcontinent, which is considered a recognised risk factor for acquisition of NDM bacteria.

The study found that bacteria with the NDM enzyme remains susceptible to only one antibiotic known as colistin and has only limited susceptibility to three others. India is one of the major destinations for cheaper healthcare for British patients.

"This means that infections caused by bacteria with this mechanism are very hard to treat," the study by Public Health England (PHE) found.

Neil Woodford, Head of the Antimicrobial Resistance and Healthcare Associated Infections Reference Unit at PHE, said: "Since it was first recognised in 2008, the NDM resistance mechanism has spread around the world and into many different types of bacteria, which remain susceptible to very few antibiotics."

Anthony Kessel, Director of Public Health Strategy at PHE, said: "The results of this study are a stark reminder of the issue that we are facing with the growing problem of antibiotic resistance."

According to PHE, the superbug was reported to be circulating in India since 2006 to 2007 and was described in a scientific paper in 2009. It was discovered in the UK in 2008.

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