Hospitals in Tuscany are on red alert amid an outbreak of an antibiotic resistant superbug which has killed at least 31 people

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  • Superbug NDM-1 infected 75 people in Italian tourist hot spot since November
  • It is believed to have killed at least 31 people in 17 Italian hospitals since then 
  • Sparked fears of outbreak as more than 100m visitors flock to Tuscany each year
  • Named New Delhi superbug, it emerged in 2010 and resists strongest antibiotics

More than 30 cases of the New Delhi superbug have been reported in Pisa since November 2018 as the region faces a deadly outbreak

More than 30 cases of the New Delhi superbug have been reported in Pisa since November 2018 as the region faces a deadly outbreak

Superbug NDM-1 sparked a global panic when it was found in the Indian capital in 2010. It is immune to our ¿last resort¿ antibiotics, called carbapenems

Superbug NDM-1 sparked a global panic when it was found in the Indian capital in 2010. It is immune to our ‘last resort’ antibiotics, called carbapenems

Hospitals in the Italian region of Tuscany are on high alert following a deadly outbreak of a superbug.

Figures show the antibiotic-resistant NDM-1 has infected at least 75 people in the tourist hot spot since November 2018.     

The bacterial infection is believed to have killed at least 31 people in 17 different hospitals in that time.

More than 30 cases of infection have been reported in Pisa, home to the famous leaning tower. 

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control issued a rapid risk assessment in June after the outbreak in Tuscany.

It warned of possible cross-border infections, ‘especially since the affected area is a major tourist destination.’

More than 100million visitors flock to the beloved region – home to the Renaissance art of Florence and gothic architecture of Siena – every year.

Tuscany’s health authority said ‘the ability to resist antibiotics makes these bacteria dangerous, especially in vulnerable patients, already affected by serious pathologies or immunosuppressed’.

As a result, hospitals in the region have ‘stepped up procedures for the prevention and control of infections in health facilities,’ it said.  

Superbug NDM-1 – named after New Delhi – sparked a global panic when it was found in the Indian capital in 2010. 

The so-called superbug NDM-1 sparked a global panic when it was found in the Indian capital in 2010. 

NDM-1 is an enzyme – a mutant piece of DNA – that turns ordinary bacteria into lethal bugs which our best medicines bounce off. 

These mutant bacteria are known to have killed more than 20 people in Britain and infected hundreds, if not thousands of Britons. No one knows the true toll.  

The bacteria known already to carry it include mutant versions of common and usually harmless gut bugs — Klebsiella and E.coli. 

The bug showed resistance even to carbapenems, a group of antibiotics often reserved as a last resort in fighting infections.

NDM-1 breaks down these drugs, rendering them useless. 

It is also immune to most other antibiotics, including penicillins.  

NDM-1 is an enzyme – a mutant piece of DNA – that turns ordinary bacteria into lethal bugs which our best antibiotics bounce off. 

These mutant bacteria are known to have killed more than 20 people in Britain and infected hundreds, if not thousands of Britons. No-one knows the true toll. 

Public Health England said that the number of laboratory-confirmed cases of bacteria carrying NDM-1 had rose from just five in 2006 to more than 600 in 2013. 

That number is thought to be well above 1,000 now.

The bacteria known already to carry it include mutant versions of common and usually harmless gut bugs — Klebsiella and E.coli.

According to Public Health England, the NDM-1 enzyme has made them immune to our ‘last resort’ antibiotics — called carbapenems — which medics use to beat infections when other antibiotics have failed.

NDM-1 breaks down these drugs, rendering them useless. It is also immune to most other antibiotics, including penicillins. 

Experts at the U.S. Centres for Disease Control say that it contributes to the death of up to half of patients who become infected.

Every year, thousands of Britons travel to the Indian capital for cheap operations, often cosmetic surgery, but also organ transplants that NHS surgeons have declared too hazardous to perform. 

Hospitals on the subcontinent may charge only one-fifth of what a UK private hospital asks.

However, India effectively acts as a vast petri dish for growing new antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Poor sanitation and healthcare hygiene spread bacteria rapidly. 

Moreover, antibiotics can be bought cheaply, easily and frivolously at chemists on the subcontinent. 

Antibiotics have been doled out unnecessarily by GPs and hospital staff for decades, fueling once harmless bacteria to become superbugs. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has previously warned if nothing is done the world is heading for a ‘post-antibiotic’ era.

It claimed common infections, such as chlamydia, will become killers without immediate solutions to the growing crisis.

Bacteria can become drug resistant when people take incorrect doses of antibiotics or if they are given out unnecessarily. 

Chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies claimed in 2016 that the threat of antibiotic resistance is as severe as terrorism.

Figures estimate that superbugs will kill 10 million people each year by 2050, with patients succumbing to once harmless bugs.

Around 700,000 people already die yearly due to drug-resistant infections including tuberculosis (TB), HIV and malaria across the world. 

Concerns have repeatedly been raised that medicine will be taken back to the ‘dark ages’ if antibiotics are rendered ineffective in the coming years.

In addition to existing drugs becoming less effective, there have only been one or two new antibiotics developed in the last 30 years.

In September, the WHO warned antibiotics are ‘running out’ as a report found a ‘serious lack’ of new drugs in the development pipeline.

Without antibiotics, C-sections, cancer treatments and hip replacements will become incredibly ‘risky’, it was said at the time.



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