New hospital 'superbug' worry

15th of September 2010
New hospital 'superbug' worry

A new ‘superbug’ that is resistant to even the most powerful antibiotics has entered UK hospitals – and scientists fear it will go global. They say the bacteria that make an enzyme called NDM-1 have travelled back with National Health Service (NHS) patients who went abroad to countries
such as India and Pakistan for treatment.

Although there have only been around 50 cases identified in the UK so far, experts say tight surveillance is now needed. NDM-1 can exist inside different bacteria, like E.coli, and it makes them resistant to one of the most powerful groups of antibiotics - carbapenems. These are generally reserved for use in emergencies and to combat hard-to-treat infections caused by other multi-resistant bacteria.

Could spread rapidly

And experts fear NDM-1 could now jump to other strains of bacteria that are already resistant to many other antibiotics. Ultimately this could produce dangerous infections that would spread rapidly from person to person and be almost impossible to treat.

This new risk underlines the need for good infection control – as standard measures such as effective cleaning/disinfection and hand hygiene vigilance can stop the spread.

Dr Stephen Dalton, global R&D director at global hygiene solutions specialist Diversey had this advice for the public and those working in the healthcare sector. “Remain vigilant, choose the right personal hygiene and professional cleaning products and use them properly because that is the best defence against this and many other infections, especially those that are resistant to antibiotics.”

Many infections, including the new strains of bacteria containing the NDM-1 gene, spread most easily by person-to-person contact. The best method of prevention against these so-called ‘superbugs’ is good personal hygiene, and in particular hand hygiene, among healthcare workers, support staff, visitors and patients. The second step is to disinfect hospital wards, beds, treatment rooms and other surfaces that have been used by anyone with, or suspected of having, the infection.

Thea Daha, an infection control specialist for the Dutch Working Party for Infection Prevention, echoed these sentiments. “Infection prevention is key in a situation like this because if a dangerous pathogen is not allowed to spread, there is no infection.”

Read more about hospital infection control


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