Global travel aiding in spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria

Researchers recently warned that the ease of global travel has helped to give bacteria an increased resistance to antibiotics and will leave doctors in a struggle to help infected patients.

A gene that imparts high levels of drug-resilience, New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1, or NDM-1, has now been found in large numbers of bacteria that live in the intestines and are capable of causing pneumonia and urinary tract infections, according to The Guardian.

The researcher who discovered the gene, Professor Tim Walsh of Cardif University, says the increased presence of the resilience gene in Enterobacteriacae is cause to worry, since it was previously only seen in rare cases.

Walsh’s study, published in August in the British medical journal The Lancet, looked at patients in India who had Enterobacteriacae infections. Walsh and his team found that up to three percent of the patients had NDM-1 producing Enterobacteriacae in their intestines.

"It is absolutely staggering," Walsh told The Guardian. "Because of international travel, globalization and medical tourism, [the gene] now has the opportunity to go anywhere in the world very quickly."

There are currently only two known antibiotics that are capable of treating NDM-1 producing bacteria, and it is likely that they will cease to be effective before long.

"In many ways, this is it," Walsh told The Guardian. "This is potentially the end. There are no antibiotics in the pipeline that have activity against NDM-1-producing Enterobacteriaceae.

"We have a bleak window of maybe 10 years, where we are going to have to use the antibiotics we have very wisely, but also grapple with the reality that we have nothing to treat these infections with."