A new superbug could spread around the world after reaching Britain from India and scientists say there are almost no drugs to treat it. (source: Reuters)
The new superbug – New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase, or NDM-1 – makes bacteria highly resistant to almost all antibiotics.
Almost as soon as the first antibiotic penicillin was introduced in the 1940s, bacteria began to develop resistance to its effects, prompting researchers to develop many new generations of antibiotics.
But their overuse and misuse have helped fuel the rise of drug-resistant “superbug” infections like methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus (MRSA).
In a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal on Wednesday, Walsh’s team found that NDM-1 is becoming more common in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan and is also being imported back to Britain in patients returning after treatment.
For many years, antibiotic research has been a “Cinderella” sector of the pharmaceuticals industry, reflecting a mismatch between the scientific difficulty of finding treatments and the modest sales such products are likely to generate, since new drugs are typically saved only for the sickest patients.
But the increasing threat from superbugs is encouraging a rethink at the few large drugmakers still actively hunting for new antibiotics, including Pfizer, Merck, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis.