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Hospitals on bug alert

PUBLISHED: 10:07 12 August 2010 | UPDATED: 11:56 16 September 2010

Norfolk's hospitals say they are putting robust measures in place to detect any possible outbreak of a new antibiotic-resistant superbug.

International travel and medical tourism has helped spread a new gene, called NDM-1 (New Delhi metallo-ß-lactamase), which allows bacteria to be highly resistant to almost all antibiotics, the scientists said.

Norfolk's hospitals say they are putting robust measures in place to detect any possible outbreak of a new antibiotic-resistant superbug.

International travel and medical tourism has helped spread a new gene, called NDM-1 (New Delhi metallo-ß-lactamase), which allows bacteria to be highly resistant to almost all antibiotics, the scientists said. NDM-1 spread in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

But it has also been found in around 50 patients in the UK, 37 of whom travelled to India or Pakistan for medical procedures including cosmetic surgery, according to an article published in The Lancet.

The authors said it could be easily copied and transferred between different bacteria, suggesting “an alarming potential to spread and diversify among bacterial populations”.

Hospitals across the county are now monitoring patients for any sign of the bacteria, but say no cases have been identified in Norfolk.

Andrew Stronach, spokesman for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said: “According to experts, NDM-1 has been associated with

E. coli bacteria, the most common cause of urinary tract infections.

“It's not something we have seen here but it remains very important for us to have good infection surveillance, strict infection prevention and control procedures and excellent standards of cleanliness.”

A spokesman for James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We have had no cases of NDM-1 in our hospitals.

“We will continue to apply robust working practices to prevent infections, such as hand washing, the regular cleaning of our hospitals and prudent antibiotic prescribing.”

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn has had no cases, but says the hospital is on alert for the bacteria. Pauleen Pratt, director of infection prevention and control, said: “The existence of this enzyme has been known for some time and would be detected as part of our normal patient screening process.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “So far there has only been

a small number of cases in UK hospital patients. The Health Protection Agency is continuing to monitor the situation and we are investigating ways of encouraging the development of new antibiotics with our European colleagues.”

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