Image: Michael Allen Smith via flickr
Here's some great news to mark World Health Day: a new report shows that a gene that causes bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics has been found throughout the water supply in New Delhi. The implications for the rest of the world are massive—and are already being seen in Europe, where the same gene, New Delhi or NDM-1 superbug, has been found in patients. European health experts are saying that the battle with antibiotic-resistant infections has reached a critical point, and even the strongest and newest drugs are no longer able to fight them. The BBC reports that over 25,000 people die every year in the EU alone from bacterial infections that even the newest antibiotics cannot treat.
The Guardian reports more on the findings in India:
the gene, known as NDM-1, is widespread in the water used for cooking, washing and drinking in Delhi. It will inevitably be brought into hospitals in the gut flora of patients. The potential for movement around the world is high.
NDM-1 can cause many types of bacteria - including E coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae - to become resistant to powerful antibiotics called carbapenems, which are used when other antibiotics fail to work. The team also found the gene had spread to bacteria that cause cholera and dysentery. "Worryingly, dysentery caused by this particular isolate is currently untreatable," said Mark Toleman, one of the authors.
Yet the widespread panic over germs and craze for sanitizers, disinfectants, etc., at least in the U.S., continues, despite being a large part of the problem—which is a concept even a third-grader can understand.
The Guardian quotes Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, saying that antibiotics are way overused. "There are now superbugs that do not respond to any drug. Given the growth of travel and trade in Europe and across the world, people should be aware that until all countries tackle this, no country alone can be safe."
The World Health Organization is using World Health Day to highlight this specific issue, and has recommendations including what should be beyond obvious:
Regulate and promose rational use of medicines, including in animal husbandry.
More on antibiotic resistance
Antibiotic Resistant Superbugs Explained at a Third Grade Level
Drug Resistant Superbugs Hit U.S. Hospitals and Nursing Homes
Drug-Resistant Flesh-Eating Germs More Common with Superbugs
Common Disinfectants Create Mutant Superbugs
Antibiotic Resistant Superbugs Widespread on British Farms