17. Superbug Bacteria Spreading Worldwide

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Lethal superbugs that do not respond to any known drugs are emerging. The World Health Organization states that the New Delhi, or NDM-1, superbug was recently found in UK patients who had traveled to countries such as India or Pakistan and has reached a critical point. These superbugs are resistant to carbapenem antibiotics, a major concern to experts because this type of antibiotic is used to treat infections that evade other drugs.

Already 25,000 people in Europe die each year from superbugs and there are a number of other bacteria that are also now resistant to all known drugs. That figure will increase to even greater numbers unless new, more powerful antibiotics are developed.

In 2010, scientists determined these bacteria, which have genetic resistance to antibiotics, have contaminated Delhi’s drinking water supply. The superbug gene has spread to bacteria that cause dysentery and
cholera, which can be easily passed from person to person via sewage-contaminated water. Scientists are calling for urgent, unified action by health authorities worldwide to “tackle the new strains and prevent their global spread.”The overuse and misuse of antibiotics  has led to “unprecedented levels” of resistance, and a lack of development of new drugs means we could see the development of entirely untreatable bacterial infections. The problem is worsened because drug companies have put off developing new antibiotics, which are seen as not profitable enough.


“Europe ‘losing’ superbugs battle,” Michelle Roberts, BBC News, April 6, 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12975693

Student Researcher: Nzinga Dotson-Newman

Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips, Sonoma State University