India Superbug Germs As 53% Indians Take Antibiotics

05/13/2012 08:02 PM ET

Three Americans were treated for serious urinary tract infections caused by a bacteria in India known as a superbug because its germs are highly resistant to drugs, and that doesn’t help when 53% Indians take antibiotics without prescription.

The bacteria, known as New Delhi Metallo-Beta-Lactamase or NDM-1, is common throughout India and each of the three Americans had recently spent time in the country, according to CBS.

These new developments add to new fears of “medical tourism” and the impact that has on spreading local diseases and bacteria around the globe.

Medical tourism is a practice growing in popularity given the high cost of medical treatments primarily involving cosmetic surgery or other treatment not covered by medical insurance, and is reportedly affecting the United States and England in particular. People are finding that traveling to other countries will save them a great deal on their medical expenses.

“India also provides cosmetic surgery for Europeans and Americans, and it is likely the bacteria will spread worldwide,” according to scientists who published the findings in The Lancet Infectious Diseases Journal.

And though NDM-1 is believed to have originated in India, scientists say the gene is increasingly common in Bangladesh and Pakistan. It is also found to be infecting people who return to western countries after their travels.

What makes this new form of bacteria so dangerous is its ability to jump and mutate across different bacterial species. Scientists have discovered the bacteria in two common bacteria species, E coli and K pneumoniae, according to Karthikeyan Kumarasamy of the University of Madras.

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