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Call for global action to squash super bugs

International efforts are crucial to stem the tide of antibiotic resistant bacteria, says expert.

The World Health Organisation must take a tougher stance on super bugs, according to an Australian infectious diseases expert.

Professor Tim Walsh, from UQ's Centre for Clinical Research, says bacteria is more widespread than previously thought. His latest research, published in the recent issue of The Lancet, indicates NDM-1 is present in New Delhi's drinking water and seepage, and as a result is widely prevalent in the Indian environment.

Walsh says international efforts were crucial to stem the tide of antibiotic resistant bacteria (known as NDM-1 positive bacteria).

“Along with the fact that some people infected with the new multi-resistant NDM-1 super bugs did not have a hospital stay in India, this research indicates that NDM-1 positive bacteria are occurring on the streets of New Delhi.”

The research highlighted the urgent need for action to limit the global spread of NDM-1 producing bacteria.

“The potential for the spread of superbugs is real and it is time for an unequivocal international commitment to combat the growing threat,” he says.

Only a small number of infections caused by NDM-1 bugs have been detected in Australia, in travellers returning from India.

“At the moment there are five known cases in Australia and at least two in Queensland. Without exception all have been linked to Southern Asia,” Walsh says.

There is an urgent need for broad epidemiological and environmental studies to be done, not just in India, but also in Pakistan and Bangladesh, which are source countries for other exported cases of infection, he says.

“There are many good documents written, not least by the WHO, listing key points to curb antibiotic resistance.

“The trouble is that these are merely recommendations which can be adhered to or totally ignored – sadly it is easy to ignore them.

“But we have now reached a point where we can no longer ignore these recommendations and effective measures now need to be enforced.

“A holistic approach and a change of social priorities in various countries is needed, however, it may well be too late to save one of medicine's most precious and long standing resources – antibiotics.”

Walsh says screening of hospital transfer patients from India has already been initiated by French, Chinese and Korean health authorities and is being considered in the UK.

See the May issue of Nursing Review for more stories on infection control.

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