Scientists issue urgent world-wide warning on bacteria with superbug gene

Friday, April 08, 2011 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: superbug, bacteria, health news

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(NaturalNews) Nuclear meltdowns. Oil spills. More strife in Africa and the Middle East. GMO tainted crops. So what else could happen? Unfortunately, another problem has surfaced that has scientists calling for the "urgent need for global action". This time, it's worrisome news about a gene that turns bacteria into not just superbugs -- but SUPER superbugs.

Bottom line: this gene (dubbed the New Delhi metallo-s-lactamase 1 gene, NDM-1, for short) enables bacteria to resist virtually any and perhaps all antibiotics.

These multidrug-resistant bacteria have been found in public water supplies and urban effluent in New Delhi. But this isn't a problem limited to India. While researchers writing in the latest issue of the journal Lancet say the findings in India pose the worrisome possibility that NDM-1 is widespread in the environment of that country, there are plenty of reasons to be concerned the bacteria could be spreading to other parts of the planet.

Mohd Shahid from Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital in Uttar Pradesh, India, warns in an accompanying article that the potential for the global spread of bacteria with the super dangerous NDM-1 gene ".. is real and should not be ignored...coordinated, concrete, and collective efforts are needed, initially to limit their widespread dissemination, and finally to combat this emerging threatening resistance problem."

For the new study, Timothy Walsh from Cardiff University in the UK and his research team, in collaboration with reporters from Channel 4 television, investigated how common NDM-1-producing bacteria are in community waste seepage (water pools in streets or rivulets) and public tap water in urban New Delhi. Using a variety of sophisticated tests, including DNA probing, the researchers checked for the presence of the NDM-1 gene in bacteria found in the water samples.

The results? The NDM-1 gene was found in 2 of the 50 drinking-water samples and 51 of 171 seepage samples. NDM-1 positive bacteria were grown from 2 drinking-water samples and 12 seepage samples. And there was a surprise -- the gene was found in 20 bacterial isolates comprising 14 different species, including 11 species in which NDM-1 has not been previously reported. What's more, the researchers reported in a media statement that it is particularly worrisome that the superbug-causing gene has spread to extremely pathogenic species of bacteria, including Shigella boydii and Vibrio cholerae, which cause dysentery and cholera, respectively.

That means bacteria that can already make people extremely sick and even kill are now turning up with a gene that makes those disease-causing germs even more dangerous because it makes them "bullet proof" from antibiotics.

The new superbug-with-a-super-gene problem is centered in India at the moment. The situation is largely blamed on a lack of sanitation -- 650 million people or more in India don't have access to clean water, according to the researchers' media statement. Moreover, it turns out that the rate at which the NDM-1 gene is copied and transferred between different bacteria is highest at 30C and that falls within the daily range of temperatures in New Delhi for 7 months of the year from April to October.

So if you are in the U.S., Asia or Europe, you don't need to really worry about this superbug threat, right? Not so fast. There's a reason the scientists are warning this is a potential global problem.

Already, reports have come in of people from Europe, North America, Asia, and Australasia who were infected by bacteria with NDM-1, most likely from traveling in India and being exposed to the superbug through close personal contact or from ingestion of water or food contaminated with the NDM-1-positive bacteria. Pakistan and Bangladesh have also been identified as countries which are "exporting" cases of infection with these superbugs to travelers who then return their home countries.

"International surveillance of resistance, incorporating environmental sampling as well as examination of clinical isolates needs to be established as a priority," the researchers concluded.

As NaturalNews has reported for years, superbugs are a growing problem in the US and elsewhere. Instead of panicking about exposure or feeling helpless when Big Pharma's drug arsenal becomes useless, consider investigating natural preventive measures and treatments such as Manuka honey ( and probiotics.

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