Identified Gene May Bring on New Superbug

Some British patients who underwent plastic surgery in South Asia were infected with a bacteria carrying a specialized gene that has the potential to turn almost any other bacteria into an antibiotic-resistant bug, according to an article published today in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The so-called superbug gene has so far been identified in 37 people who returned to Great Britain after undergoing surgery in India or Pakistan, researchers said.

British researchers reported that the new gene, called NDM-1, can be easily be transferred into common bacteria such as E. Coli, according to the article. The gene alters bacteria, making them resistant to nearly all known antibiotics.

"Most of modern medicine is based on the notion that antibiotics will work. If you no longer knew antibiotics worked, you couldn't do as much surgery, chemotherapy, transplantation," said Dr. Martin Blaser, chairman of the department of medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center. "Antibiotics are part of the foundation of modern medical care."

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