NDM-1, the Drug-Resistance Bacteria Supergene, Spreading Relentlessly

"Yesterday and today are early-publication days for the December issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the free peer-reviewed journal published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Are you reading it? Why not? Your tax dollars pay for it. Go, now.) Among many interesting stories — more on those in later posts — there are two important, complex and saddening papers updating the relentless spread of the “Indian supergene,” New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase or NDM-1. ...

NDM-1 is a gene that produces an enzyme that confers resistance on gram-negative bacteria to almost all the drugs used to treat them. The American Type Culture Collection, which sells isolates for research, recently published the table of resistance results, and it’s phenomenal: All Rs, all the way down. It was first identified in 2008 in a native of India, resident in Sweden, who had been hospitalized while on a visit back home; then found in the UK in 2009; and then found in the US in June this year. It renders bacteria that are common causes of hospital-acquired infections — Klebsiella, Acinetobacter, E. coli — resistant to all but one or two drugs. It’s extremely bad news."

Maryn McKenna, author of Superbug, reports for Wired Science November 11, 2010.

Monday, November 15, 2010