The growing spread of multi-drug resistant pathogens has many people fearing potential epidemics
Posted by Alexandru Nicolae
The pathogens Klebsiella and E-coli belong to a family of bacteria called Enterobacteriaceae. They're commonly found in the human gut (that's normal in case you were wondering); however, some strains are pathogenic causing disease in humans, usually by producing various toxins that attack the body. The toxins cause illness, and in some cases, death.
According to one source, carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae isolated from hospital blood cultures have increased from 0% in 2006 to 8% in 2009. This is all before the discovery of the NDM-1-carrying bacteria, and so it is projected to grow. What's even scarier is that the genes responsible for producing NDM-1 may be transferable between bacteria. Going back to the Swedish patient we talked about earlier, the NDM-1 enzyme was in both the Klebsiella isolated from her urine and the E-coli found in her feces. This is worrying, and in my opinion may be linked to its quick spread around the globe.
We've been hearing about increasingly common antibiotic-resistant bacteria in recent years, If I recall correctly a new Tuberculosis strain was talked about in the States for some time. The reason the NDM-1 enzyme may have become so prevalent in the community in India could potentially be from the overuse of antibiotics in that country to treat infections, although it is by no means endemic to India. In the west we seem to be at least increasing our awareness about antibiotic resistance among pathogens, but how many of us still go to the doctor with illnesses not much worse than the common cold and ask for antibiotics to speed up the curative process? Mind you, colds are viral infections and will not respond to antibiotics.
This has the potential to develop into a serious community health issue if not properly addressed. Luckily health officials say there is no need for immediate alarm, the reported number of cases is still quite small. The best thing to do for the moment is to maintain proper hygiene and preventative methods. What are these preventative methods you ask? Good old hand-washing for the most part.
For now, we will have to wait and see what happens. Hopefully it never reaches the scale of an epidemic because of our early preparation.
The only bacterial cultures I want to hear about in the news from now on will be when they're talking about yogurt, I don't think I can stomach anything else.
Yong D, Toleman MA, Giske CG, et cetera. (2009). Characterization of a New Metallo-B-Lactamase Gene, blaNDM-1 and a Novel Erythromycin...Antimicrob Agen and Chemother; 53(12):5046-5054.
Deshpande P, Rodrigues C, Shetty A, et cetera. (2010). New Delhi Metallo-b lactamase (NDM-1) in Enterobacteriaceae: Treatment options with Carbapenems Compromised. J of Assoc of Phys of India;58:147-150.
NDM-1 superbug cases rise in Canada. Yahoo Canada News. (click here for source)
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Bratu S, Landman B, Haag R, et cetera.(2005). Rapid Spread of Carbapenem-Resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae in New York City: A New Threat to Our Antibiotic Armamentarium. Arch Intern Med;165:1430-1435.