What Is Superbug Ndm-1?
A new superbug could spread around the world and scientists say there are almost no drugs to treat it. Researchers have found a new gene called New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase, or NDM-1, in patients in South Asia and in Britain.
NDM-1 makes bacteria highly resistant to almost all antibiotics, including the most powerful class called carbapenems, and experts say there are no new drugs on the horizon to tackle it. Many hospital infections that were already difficult to treat have become even more impervious to drugs.
“Because of medical tourism and international travel in general, resistance to these types of bacteria has the potential to spread around the world very, very quickly. And there is nothing in the (drug development) pipeline to tackle it.” “Unprecedented air travel and migration allow bacterial plasmids and clones to be transported rapidly between countries and continents,” mostly undetected, they said.
The emergence of these new drug-resistant strains could become a serious global public health problem as the major threat shifts toward a broad class of bacteria — including those armed with the NDM-1 gene — known as “Gram-negative”, the researchers warn.
The gene for NDM-1 is one member of a large gene family that encodes beta-lactamase enzymes called carbapenemases. Bacteria that produce carbapenemases are often referred to in the news media as “superbugs” because infections caused by them are difficult to treat. Such bacteria are usually susceptible only to polymyxins and tigecycline.
NDM-1 was first detected in a Klebsiella pneumoniae isolate from a Swedish patient of Indian origin in 2008. It was later detected in bacteria in India, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and Japan.
The most common bacteria that make this enzyme are gram-negative such as Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae, but the gene for NDM-1 can spread from one strain of bacteria to another by horizontal gene transfer.
The NDM-1 enzyme was named after New Delhi, the capital city of India, as it was first described by Yong et al. in December 2009 in a Swedish national who fell ill with an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection that he acquired in India. The infection was identified as a carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae strain bearing the novel gene blaNDM-1. The authors concluded that the new resistance mechanism “clearly arose in India, but there are few data arising from India to suggest how widespread it is”. Its exact geographical origin, however, has not been conclusively verified. In March 2010, a study in a hospital in Mumbai found that most carbapenem-resistant bacteria isolated from patients carried the blaNDM-1 gene. Later, the journal authority apologized for using the name of New Delhi, India to describe a pathogen.
NDM-1 β-lactamase was also found in an K. pneumoniae isolate from Croatia, and the patient arrived from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The second geographical origin is considered to be eastern Balkans.
In May 2010, a case of infection with E. coli expressing NDM-1 was reported in Coventry in the United Kingdom. The patient was a man of Indian origin who had visited India 18 months previously, where he had undergone dialysis. In initial assays the bacterium was fully resistant to all antibiotics tested, while later tests found that it was susceptible to tigecycline and colistin. The authors warned that international travel and patients’ use of multiple countries’ healthcare systems could lead to the “rapid spread of NDM-1 with potentially serious consequences”.
As of June 2010, there were three reported cases of Enterobacteriaceae isolates bearing this newly described resistance mechanism in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that “All three U.S. isolates were from patients having received recent medical care in India.” However, US experts stated that it is unclear as to whether this strain is any more dangerous than existing antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which are already common in the USA.
In July 2010, a team in New Delhi reported a cluster of three cases of Acinetobacter baumannii bearing blaNDM-1 that were found in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Chennai, India, in April 2010. As previously, the bacteria were fully resistant to all the aminoglycoside β-lactam and quinolone antibiotics, but were susceptible to tigecycline and colistin. This particularly broad spectrum of antibiotic resistance was heightened by the strain’s expressing several different resistance genes in addition to blaNDM-1.
A study by a multi-national team was published in the August 2010 issue of the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases. This examined the emergence and spread of bacteria carrying the blaNDM-1 gene. This reported on 37 cases in the United Kingdom, 44 isolates with NDM-1in Chennai, 26 in Haryana, and 73 in various other sites in Pakistan and India. The authors’ analysis of the strains showed that many carried blaNDM-1 on plasmids, which will allow the gene to be readily transferred between different strains of bacteria by horizontal gene transfer. All the isolates were resistant to multiple different classes of antibiotics, including beta-lactam antibiotics, fluoroquinolones, and aminoglycosides, but most were still susceptible to the polymyxin antibiotic colistin.
On 21 August 2010, Ontario, Canada, had its first confirmed case of the “superbug” in Brampton. There were other confirmed cases in British Columbia and Alberta. These confirmed NDM-1 infected cases have no relationship with New Delhi, India. The patients or their relatives never travelled India in the last decade.
In August 2010, a chemical compound GSK 299423 was found to significantly fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria by making such bacteria unable to reproduce, citing a likely treatment to the NDM-1 strain.
On 6 September 2010, Japan detected its first ever case of the NDM-1 enzyme. In May 2009, a Japanese man in his 50s who had recently returned from vacation in India was struck with a fever and hospitalized, later making a full recovery. Hospital officials confirmed that tests carried out after the patient’s recovery was positive for the NDM-1 enzyme.
An environmental point prevalence study conducted between 26 September and 10 October 2010 found bacteria with the NDM-1 gene in drinking water and seepage samples in New Delhi. 50 tap water samples and 171 seepage samples were collected from sites within 12 km of central New Delhi. Of these samples, 20 strains of bacteria were found to contain NDM-1 gene in 51 out of 171 seepage samples and 2 out of 50 tap water samples.
On 8 May 2012, the presence of NDM was found in a patient who died at Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta. The patient was also found to be carrying an Acinetobacter strain. The patient contracted the bacteria after another patient, who had surgery on the Indian subcontinent, traveled to Canada and was admitted to hospital with an infection.
Science Daily reported on the 16 December 2013 that a team of scientists from Rice, Nankai and Tianjin universities found NDM-1 in two wastewater treatment plants in northern China.
In June 2014 it was reported that the molecule aspergillomarasmine A from the Aspergillus fungus turns off the resistance mechanism of NDM-1 and thus makes bacteria once again sensitive to traditional antibiotics. It has been shown to be effective in mice and rats but has not yet been tested in humans for safety or effectiveness.