Most people have heard about the more popular “superbugs” (antibiotic resistance bacteria) such as MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) and C.Diff (Clostridium Difficile). But now there is a “new” superbug starting to get alot of attention: NDM-1.
So what exactly is NDM-1 and how is it transmitted? How can disposable blood pressure cuffs play a role in combating this and other infections? These questions, and more, are answered below:
What Exactly is NDM-1?
NDM-1 stands for New Delhi metallo-β-lactamase 1. It was discovered in 2008 and is actually a gene (DNA code) found inside some types of bacteria. This gene produces an enzyme that neutralizes the effects of the antibiotic carbepenem, which is an extremely powerful antibiotic used to fight highly resistant bacteria when other antibiotics have not worked. Carbepenem is known as the antibiotic of last resort2.
Where Did NDM-1 Come From And How Far Has it Spread?
As the name suggests, this superbug originated in India, a country with little drug control, where antibiotics are frequently sold over the counter and therefore overused. Currently, NDM-1 is found widely throughout India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and is now spreading to the United Kingdom, United States, Israel, Turkey, China, Australia, France, Japan, Kenya, Singapore, Taiwan, and the Nordic countries4. So what started as a localized issue has quickly become a worldwide health crisis, thanks in part, to easily accessible global travel.
Do Any Antibiotics Work Against NDM-1?
At this time, there are no current antibiotics to treat NDM-1 and there is nothing in the pipeline to combat this deadly bacteria, since most major drug companies have steered clear of this research due to the relatively small payoff and a long development effort1. Furthermore, researchers worry that bacterium with the NDM-1 code may already be resistant to new antibiotics that come into the market in the near future3.
How is NDM-1 Transmitted?
NDM-1 gene can easily be transferred to different bacteria strains and these bacteria are often transmitted through food preparation, bodily contact, and hospital procedures where patients have weakened immune systems. Therefore, the key to stopping the transmission of NDM-1, just like other healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), is to insist on good infection control policies in hospitals, which means good hygiene, proper disinfecting of reusable medical devices, and the implementation of disposable or single-use medical products (such as disposable blood pressure cuffs) when possible.
With NDM-1 outsmarting all known antibiotics at this time, will we ever be able to get ahead of it? History has shown that we may be able to contain superbugs with the proper infection control procedures, but these procedures can never stop new antibiotic-resistance bacteria from developing.
- Moellering, Robert C. NDM-1 – A Cause for Worldwide Concern. N Engl J Med. 363; 25. December 16, 2010. 2377-2379.