By Joseph Hall, Toronto Star, May 30, 2011
It’s a sliver of DNA that turns ordinary bacteria into superbugs and could become a new scourge in Ontario hospitals, one of Toronto’s top infectious disease experts says.
Originating in India and Pakistan, the tiny genetic package can worm its way into the normal bacteria that colonize our bodies by the billions and produce an enzyme that makes them immune to most major antibiotics.
“Our big concern is that if this gets into the hospital setting it really provides us with really a tremendous challenge,” says Dr. Donald Low, head of microbiology at Mount Sinai Hospital.
“It could become another . . . one of our most important superbugs in the sense that there are virtually no antibiotics that are currently on the market that can effectively treat infections,” says Low, who notes it has recently been found in 19 Ontario patients.
Known as New Delhi metallo-B-lactamase-1, or NDM-1, the enzyme poses little threat to the general public, Low stresses.
But in hospital or nursing home settings, where weakened patients are more susceptible to infections or face disease-spreading procedures, it could join the list of ailments like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, that perpetually plague such facilities.
CBC reports on The National that an 86 year old man who has never travelled outside the province of Ontario is carrying the enzyme, indicating that it is now being transferred to patients who have not been exposed to it in either Pakistan or India where it originated. There are, according to the CBC, several patients travelling to those countries for surgical procedures, in hospitals and clinics there, and that is one of the potential windows by which the enzyme has made its way into Ontario.
Ironic how the very institutions charged with preserving and enhancing human health can become the incubators for such resistant "bugs" that, once they enter those hospitals, it becomes extremely difficult to eradicate them, thereby enhancing the risk to patients whose hospital stay has nothing to do with such a 'bug'.