We’ve talked on the show before about antibiotic-resistant bacteria. There's good news and bad news. The good news is that the best known superbug, MRSA, is spreading much more slowly, but there’s a new wave of germs making their way around the world - and they make MRSA look like no big deal. Here are the details, courtesy of Reuters News Service:
The new bugs all carry a gene called New Delhi NDM-1. As the name suggests, it was first discovered in India, but cases have been reported in Great Britain, Asia, and the United States. The gene makes already-dangerous bugs virtually antibiotic-proof, and it’s been found in many common bacteria – which means cases of untreatable E. coli and pneumonia are a real possibility.
Dr. Timothy Walsh is a microbiologist at Cardiff University in Wales. He says that a major cause of the spread of these new superbugs is what he calls medical tourism. That’s the practice of going overseas to save money on medical treatment. Since you can get a $40,000 hip replacement for about $7,000 in India, that country has become a medical tourism hotspot. In fact, all three reported cases in the U.S. occurred in people who’d just had a cosmetic procedure in India. The same is true for the cases in Great Britain.
Now here’s where it gets really scary: Dr. Alexander Kallen, an outbreak response coordinator for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says there are no new drugs on the horizon to tackle bacteria that carry the NDM-1 gene. Since there’s no good treatment, your only defense is staying infection-free. So, wash your hands often, and avoid any type of hospital stay that isn’t absolutely necessary, especially overseas.