World News and Trends: Deadly superbug spreading from India

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Deadly superbug spreading from India

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A new gene that makes bacteria resistant to virtually all antibiotics has been discovered in patients in the United States, Britain and South Asia, according to an Aug. 11, 2010, Reuters report by health and science reporters Kate Kelland and Ben Hirschler. The new gene apparently originated in India and is being spread outside the country by patients traveling there for inexpensive health care.

The article quoted Timothy Walsh of Cardiff University in Britain, who said: "At a global level, this is a real concern...Because of medical tourism [traveling abroad for medical procedures] 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."

A longtime problem in health care is the ability of bacteria to develop resistance to antibiotics, meaning researchers are constantly forced to develop new antibiotics to treat infections.

A particularly troubling development in recent years was the spread of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, which takes thousands of lives worldwide every year due to its resistance to most antibiotics. This new gene raises the stakes even higher, as no new drugs are in development that can effectively deal with it. 

Because India is becoming a growing provider for cosmetic surgery for Americans and Europeans, it's likely bacteria with the drug-resistant gene will spread worldwide, with potentially devastating results. (Source: Reuters.)