'Indian' superbug hits Australia

     Experts have revealed that a new bacterial gene resistant to antibiotics has been discovered in at least three Australian patients. This comes after the release of an international study warning of the superbug's spread. In an article published in The Lancet, researchers confirmed that the NDM-1 gene had been found in 37 British patients after spreading from south Asia . The gene was first identified last year in a Swedish patient who had been admitted to hospital in India . The researchers warned the gene, which confers drug resistance on gut bacteria that can potentially cause life-threatening pneumonia and urinary tract infections, could become a serious global health problem. The study shows that the gene is widespread in hospitals and probably the wider community in India , where contamination of drinking water allows stomach bugs to be transmitted. Researchers identified about 150 patients with the superbug after collecting samples from patients in hospitals in Bangladesh , India and Pakistan . They also identified it in 37 British patients, some of whom had travelled to India or Pakistan for surgery, including cosmetic surgery, in the past year. A contributor to the study, University of Queensland researcher David Paterson, said he knew of at least three cases of the gene in Australia , including in a patient of Indian origin who visited Punjab late last year but had not spent time in a hospital. Fellow infectious diseases specialist Professor Peter Collignon, of the Australian National University , reported ''the first Australian case'' of the gene in the Medical Journal of Australia last month, in an Australian man in his late 50s who had had plastic surgery in India . The Australian patients were treated in hospitals outside Victoria . ''Medical tourism seems to be a growing market and Australia is part of that,'' The Age quoted Professor Collignon as saying. ''What people need to realise is that if something goes wrong, particularly if you get an infection ... countries to our north, such as China and India , have lots of infections that are multi-resistant and there are little or no antibiotics to treat them with,'' Collignon added. He said it was a concern that the bugs also appeared to be carried in the water and food supply in developing countries.

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