CARDIFF U. (U.K.)—Bacteria that produce a recently discovered antibiotic-resistant gene have been found in U.K. patients for the first time.

Tim Walsh, a professor in the medical microbiology department at Cardiff University, first identified the NDM-1 gene in Klebsiella pneumoniae and Escherichia coli bacteria taken from a Swedish patient admitted to a hospital in India in 2009.

The gene-producing bacteria are resistant to many antibiotics, including carbapenems, a group of antibiotics generally reserved for use in emergencies and the treatment of infections caused by multi-resistant bacteria.

In a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, Walsh investigated how common the bacteria are in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan—and the importation of these bacteria into the U.K. via patients returning from these countries.

“A new gene NDM-1 that enables bacteria to be highly resistant to almost all antibiotics is widespread in Enterobacteriaceae taken from patients in India and Pakistan, and has also been found in U.K. patients who traveled to India for elective surgery,” says Walsh.

The study collected bacteria samples from patients presenting with various hospital- and community-associated infections in Chennai and Haryana in India, and from patients referred to the U.K.’s national reference laboratory between 2007 and 2009.

Samples were tested for antibiotic susceptibility and the presence of the NDM-1 gene using polymerase chain reaction and sequencing.

They identified 44 (1.5 percent) NDM-1-positive bacteria in Chennai, 26 (8 percent) in Haryana, 37 in the U.K., and 73 in other sites in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan.

NDM-1 was mostly found in E. coli, the most common cause of community-associated urinary tract infections, and K. pneumoniae.

The NDM-1-producing bacteria were highly resistant to all antibiotics except tigecycline and colistin. In some cases, isolates were resistant to all antibiotics.

The authors say that the emergence of NDM-1 positive bacteria is potentially a serious global public health problem as there are few new anti-Gram-negative antibiotics in development and none that are effective against NDM-1.

“The rapid emergence of these multidrug-resistant, NDM-1-producing bacteria and their potential worldwide spread could herald a period in which antibiotics become redundant and demands very close international monitoring and surveillance.”

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