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Global health warning over drug-resistant bacteria

Amid the growing threat of antibiotic resistance the World Health Organisation is urging countries around the world to actively prevent against the spread of a multi-drug resistant superbug.

The bug, which emerged in south Asia and spread to Britain, threatens to deprive the world of antibiotics which once created miracle cures for infectious diseases.

Scientists from the UK and India have pinpointed a new gene that enables some types of bacteria to become highly resistant to almost all antibiotics, said a report in The Lancet medical journal.

The report warns the world about the spread of bacteria carrying this new gene, which they called NDM 1. These bacteria become resistant to almost all the antibiotics designed to fight them.

The World Health Organisation has called it a ‘growing and global public health problem.’ The agency said countries should be prepared to bring in new measures to control hospital infections, limit the spread of multi-drug resistant strains and to tighten up their national policies on wise use of antibiotics.

"While multi-drug resistant bacteria are not new and will continue to appear, this development requires monitoring and further study to understand the extent and modes of transmission, and to define the most effective measures for control," the WHO said.

"Consumers, prescribers and dispensers, veterinarians, hospital managers and diagnostic laboratories, patients and visitors to health-care facilities, as well as national governments, the pharmaceutical industry, professional societies, and international agencies, should be aware of the problem,” it added.

The organisation strongly advised that governments focus their efforts to control and prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance on four main areas including: "surveillance, education about appropriate use of antibiotics, introducing or enforcing legislation related to stopping the selling of antibiotics without prescription; and strict adherence to infection prevention and control measures, including the use of hand-washing measures, particularly in healthcare facilities.

If bacteria is exposed to an antibiotic, some of it will have a better chance of survival and higher reproduction rate than the others. This information stored in its genes can pass on to the other bacteria and in the end, the whole group of bacteria develop complete resistance against the particular antibiotic. If a bacterium carries several resistance genes then it becomes multi-resistant, commonly known as a ‘superbug’.

Indian doctors warned earlier this year about the threat from a new multi-drug resistant superbug known as NDM-1 warning that it could spread worldwide with patients. The Lancet study said plastic surgery patients had carried a new class of superbug from South Asia to Britain.

Hayley attribution