Australian hospitals should start screening patients for a deadly new superbug NDM-1 (New Delhi metallo) that could lead the world into a post-antibiotic era, according to 25 April media reports including that posted on www.watoday.com.au. In fact, if screening does take place it would only bring Australia into line with a number of countries – such as The Netherlands – that have used this proactive practice most successfully for many years.
Obviously the cleaning and hygiene industry has an important role to play in combating hospital acquired infections and it needs to be properly educated to deal with this latest public health threat.
The bacterial gene, which originated in India, is said to have been found in four Australian cases – all patients had recently travelled overseas – so far and is spreading across the world.
Leading microbiologists say the new bacterial gene, known as NDM-1, has an unprecedented level of resistance to nearly all antibiotics, including carbapenems – one of the last-resort antibiotics for serious infections.
Australian Society for Microbiology immediate past president, Professor Hatch Stokes, is reported as saying it was time Australians had a robust discussion about ways to stem antimicrobial resistance, a problem that is killing thousands of Australians who succumb to drug-resistant infections each year. He added that health authorities should do everything they can to prevent NDM-1 getting a foothold in hospitals.
”I think proactive screening of people when they enter hospitals is worth thinking about,” he said. ”If you know someone is carrying it, you can isolate them.
”The efficacy of antibiotics has been declining for the last 30 years, and in some cases, we are getting to the point where some micro-organisms are essentially untreatable by antibiotics.”
Doctors at the world’s largest gathering of infectious disease experts recently labelled NDM-1 as a global time bomb that could lead the world into a post-antibiotic era.
University of Technology, Sydney, microbiologist associate professor Elizabeth Harry, backed Professor Stokes’s call for hospital screening and said more bacterial genes such as NDM-1 would emerge in coming years, making it harder to treat people. Without effective antibiotics, surgery and chemotherapy would become impossible to conduct without a high risk of death, she pointed out.
”It will be like going back to war times when many people died from infections. It wasn’t the injuries, it was the infections that killed them.”
A federal Health Department spokeswoman said she was unable to comment on whether hospital screening for NDM-1 would be adopted, but said the government and the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care were taking many steps to limit the spread of drug-resistant infections.