Ever since the superbug NDM-1 stirred headlines around the world, investigators have been trying to zero in on the makeup of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Now investigators say that NDM-1 (or New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase 1) mounts an enzyme-based defense that can render all but a select number of antibiotics useless. And given its ability to swap genes in a blizzard of interactions with various bacteria, it can easily spread to all sorts of bacteria that we all carry around in our gut.
"The spread of these organisms has prompted widespread concern because some of them are resistant to all antimicrobial agents except the polymyzins," Robert Moellering, of Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, wrote in the Dec. 16 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.
There have been troubling signs of its rapid spread around the globe. NDM-1 originally appeared in patients who had journeyed to India for medical care. But now it's been spotted in the U.K. in patients who haven't traveled abroad. And based on its ability to escape an antibiotic attack as well as transfer to other bacteria, this is one health threat that is likely to rise rapidly on the list of targets for antibiotic developers.
However, one of the problems with that scenario is that Big Pharma companies dropped out of the antibiotic scene years ago, unhappy with the kind of limited revenue they earned. That left the field largely to smaller players without the deep pockets to move a program quickly through the clinic.
- here's the story from Reuters