New research has raised fears that the superbug New Delhi metallo-1 (NDM-1) is more prevalent than previously thought. A report aired by Channel 4 News has suggested that the spread of the superbug has extended to both the NHS and outside of the hospital network in the bug’s native India.
Researcher’s collected 100 samples from sewers across Delhi and found NDM-1 present in 11, while there were traces of the bacteria found outside hospitals. Their findings also suggested that NDM-1 is present in bacteria like E. coli, and could be widespread among the population in Indian cities. This means that stopping the superbug from spreading could be a huge challenge, as people will continually re-introduce the infection by entering hospitals.
The results of the study also revealed at least 64 cases of NDM-1 in the UK, with five related deaths. The results are another milestone in the growth of NDM-1 which has been reported in 16 countries since its identification in 2007.
Medical professionals have expressed their concern that the latest strain, known as enterobacteriaceae, will produce enzymes that attack and counteract powerful antibiotics called carbapenems, which the NHS relies on as its last line of defence against particularly damaging infections.
Mark Woodhead, chairman of the British Cleaning Council, said: "This report sheds new light on the potential risks associated with NDM-1. Although the number of proven cases we've seen in the UK is still relatively small, the concern that they will start to spread from patient to patient within UK hospitals has to be taken very seriously; the cleaners who are at the front line of protecting patients from hospital acquired infections will play a crucial role in this fight."
Andrew Large, chief executive of the Cleaning and Support Services Agency, said: "Due to the possibility that this virus is untreatable, preventative measures are absolutely vital as we move to combat this threat. Once again, the first line of defence will be the cleaning staff who toil away at our hospitals, reducing the threat such viruses pose. We ask that the government recognises the vital role they play, and allocates sufficient resources so that we are well prepared for the challenges that lay ahead."