Toronto, Sep 14 (ANI): Health officials have warned that a new gene that can turn many types of bacteria into superbugs resistant to nearly all antibiotics has sickened people in three states and is popping up all over the world.
The U.S. cases and two others in Canada all involve people who had recently received medical care in India, where the problem is widespread.
So far, the gene has mostly been found in bacteria that cause gut or urinary infections, reports the Globe and Mail.
Scientists have long feared this - a very adaptable gene that hitches onto many types of common germs and confers broad drug resistance.
"It's a great concern," because drug resistance has been rising and few new antibiotics are in development, said Dr. M. Lindsay Grayson, director of infectious diseases at the University of Melbourne in Australia.
"It's just a matter of time" until the gene spreads more widely person-to-person, he said.
Dr. Greyson heads an American Society for Microbiology conference in Boston, which was buzzing with reports of the gene, called NDM-1 and named for New Delhi.
The U.S. cases occurred this year in people from California, Massachusetts and Illinois, said Brandi Limbago, a lab chief at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Three types of bacteria were involved, and three different mechanisms let the gene become part of them.
"We want physicians to look for it," especially in patients who have travelled recently to India or Pakistan, she said.
What can people do?
Don't add to the drug resistance problem, experts say. Don't pressure your doctors for antibiotics if they say they aren't needed, use the ones you are given properly, and try to avoid infections by washing your hands.
The gene can spread hand-to-mouth, which makes good hygiene very important.
A British medical journal revealed the risk last month. (ANI)