Sunday, August 15, 2010

There's Nothing to Fear.......or is there?

It's been a long hot summer. In fact, it's likely to be the hottest summer, if not the hottest year on record. But not only the temperature made this summer hot. We've had lots of fear-mongering about brown people. A white hating Ag department official, Arizona going to hell in a hand basket due to Hispanic looking persons, the New Black Panthers are plotting revolution against whites, beheadings in Arizona, anchor babies, terrorist babies, evil dangerous mosques being built on the 911 site in NYC etc. Will this be known as the Summer of Fear Mongering?

But do you want to hear something that actually should scare you a little? How about the discovery of a new antibiotic resistance gene that makes almost all beta-lactam antibiotics obsolete?

Beta-lactam antibiotics are antibiotics that contain a beta-lactam nucleus in their molecular structure, eg. penicillin and its derivatives, cephalosporins, and carbapenems.

Beta-lactam antibiotics are resistant to beta-lactamase, an enzyme produced by some bacterial strains which can break open the beta-lactam ring and render the antibiotic useless.

Carbapenems are a group of beta-lactam antibiotics that are highly resistant to beta-lactamase and is the last drug of choice to treat some bacterial infections. But now we have a brand new bacterial antibiotic resistance enzyme encoded by the New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM-1) gene.

The appearance of the gene was first seen in New Delhi about a year ago. In the last year it has been isolated from bacteria in the UK, USA, and Africa. There are no current antibiotics to combat bacteria containing the NDM-1 gene. And, the gene is rapidly spreading via horizontal gene transfer.

Here is a nice quote from a recent paper Lancet paper: "Enterobacteriaceae with NDM-1 carbapenemases are highly resistant to many antibiotic classes and potentially herald the end of treatment with β-lactams, fluoroquinolones, and aminoglycosides—the main antibiotic classes for the treatment of Gram-negative infections."

So, if we are really unlucky, we might have real problems to deal with in the near future.

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