In the first such case in Japan, a man who was a patient at a university hospital in Tochigi Prefecture was carrying a new type of superbug with the NDM-1 gene, which is resistant to most antibiotics, health officials confirmed Monday.
The NDM-1 gene has been detected in intestinal bacteria such as E. coli and a bug that can invade the lungs called Klebsiella pneumonia, which without the gene are mostly harmless to the human body.
Health authorities are on the alert because the superbug can spread easily from one kind of intestinal bacterium to another even among healthy people, causing pneumonia and other diseases if it spreads to more highly pathogenic bacteria.
According to Tochigi’s Dokkyo Medical University Hospital, the case involves a Japanese man in his 50s who traveled to South Asia. In May 2009 he was diagnosed with E. coli and the NDM-1 gene was also suspected.
The patient left the hospital and no in-hospital infections were observed, according to the hospital.
At a hastily arranged news conference Monday evening, the hospital said it confirmed the NDM-1 gene in a test last month on a preserved sample of the suspected superbug taken from the patient. The test was prompted by a British medical report on the gene.
It wasn’t clear if the hospital had conducted thorough checks on the man when he was in the hospital. He was hospitalized some time after he returned from India, officials said.
There has been a growing number of infections with other antibiotics-resistant bacteria in Japan, including Acinetobacter. Authorities are particularly concerned about the NDM-1 carrying bacteria because the other bugs rarely spread outside of a hospital.
Bacteria with the NDM-1 gene are spreading in Britain, France, Belgium and other European nations, as well as the U.S., Canada and Australia.
Many of those patients underwent cosmetic surgery in India and Pakistan, where medical costs are low, according to some scientific reports and local media.
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