New superbug invades United Kingdom

Health officials warn that a new superbug that is resistant to even the strongest antibiotics has entered into United Kingdom hospitals.

According to the BBC, bacteria that make up an enzyme called NDM-1 have traveled back to the United Kingdom with National Health Service patients that were abroad in India and Pakistan for treatments such as cosmetic surgery.

Only around 50 cases have been identified so far in the UK, however, specialists with Lancet Infectious Diseases told the BBC that they fear it has the potential to go global and that tight surveillance and new drugs are needed.

Health officials say NDM-1 can exist inside different bacteria, including E. coli. Officials also report that it is resistant to one of the more powerful groups of antibiotics, carbapenems, which are commonly used to fight hard-to-treat infections caused by other multi-resistant bacteria.

So far, NDM-1 has been treatable using combinations of different antibiotics. With infections already being passed from patient to patient in the UK, researchers told the BBC that they fear NDM-1 could become a major global health problem.

Dr. David Livermore, one of the researchers and who works for the UK's Health Protection Agency, said the potential of NDM-1 to become endemic worldwide is clear and frightening.

“There have been a number of small clusters within the UK, but far and away the greater number of cases appear to be associated with travel and hospital treatment in the Indian subcontinent,” Livermore told the BBC. “This type of resistance has become quite widespread there. The fear would be that it gets into a strain of bacteria that is very good at being transmitted between patients.”

He added that the Department of Health has already put out an alert on the issue. Such alerts, he said, are used very sparingly and only when new and disturbing resistance has been recorded.