Researchers caution that ‘medical tourism’ may hasten spread of superbug

A newly discovered antibiotic-resistant bacteria has reportedly been detected in several patients who have traveled to India and Bangladesh for procedures, and the authors of a recent study on the NDM-1 “superbug” gene caution that not only will it be difficult to treat, but it is likely to spread globally due to American and European patients who travel to India for lower-cost surgeries.

Researchers at Cardiff University in Wales first discovered the gene in pneumonia and E. coli bacteria samples in a patient from Sweden who had been operated on in India. The superbug has since been found in patients in Pakistan, Bangladesh and the UK as well. Scarily, the bacteria jacked up by the gene aren’t just antibiotic resistant- they’re also resistant to antibiotics for resistant bacteria.

A Canadian microbiologist commented on the implications of the study, indicating that time will tell if the bacteria on steroids will kill us all:

Whether the bacteria will actually become a major threat is “difficult to really tell at this moment in time, but the potential is there for it to become a worrisome issue,” Dr. Johann Pitout, a University of Calgary microbiologist, said in an interview.

If the germs do spread, their existence will have “serious future implications” on how hospitals deal with infections, noted Pitout, who also authored a commentary accompanying the study.