NDM-1, A Global Time Bomb

Last updated on November 18th, 2011


“Doctors at the world’s largest gathering of infectious disease experts recently described NDM-1 as a global time bomb that could lead the world into a post-antibiotic era.”

A 25-Apr-2011 report from ‘The Age‘, an Australian online media and newspaper outlet, says AUSTRALIAN hospitals have been urged to start screening patients for a deadly new superbug that could herald the decline of antibiotics as an effective medicine.

A 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.

”It is getting worse. 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. That number and the proportion of those organisms is only going to increase with time,” said Professor Stokes, past president of the Australian Society for Microbiology.

Elizabeth Harry, a microbiologist at the University of Technology in Sydney said ”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. I don’t think everyone gets that. It would be a bit like not having anesthetics.”

The increasing publicity of the NDM-1 issue may be reflecting renewed urgency from the medical community, an urgency that likely represents an increasing risk to our modern day medicine and ‘way-of-life’. Relative to our timeline as humans on this planet, antibiotics have only been with us for a very short time – and already we are facing their potential ineffectiveness.

It was not that long ago when people commonly died from infection, significantly reducing our average life expectancy. Having once won the battle in the war against deadly infection, it seems we may now be in retreat, while the invisible enemy tries to regain control. Have we gone past the peak of life expectancy? Is our own over-consumption (i.e. misuse of antibiotics) beginning to cause a decline, a dimmer outlook for our future?

Probably, yes. What can we do about it? Becoming aware of the risks is the first step. Realizing that we are vulnerable and not invincible. Become more responsible for the things that we do. Plan ahead for a world in which we may not have all of the same cures that we do today. Nature has a way of ‘getting us back’ from time to time…


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