News >China

Beijing to keep eye on superbug

2010-09-09 08:12

Beijing - The country's capital will strengthen its ongoing surveillance of antibiotic resistant bacteria by establishing a network to monitor all local major medical institutions by the end of the year.

The announcement by the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau came in response to a new superbug, which first surfaced in South Asia. It is resistant to almost all antibiotics and is spreading globally.

"The new bacterium carrying the New Delhi metallo-lactamase-1 (NDM-1) gene has not been detected on the mainland so far, but it has a high probability of surfacing here due to increased international exchange," said Lu Yuan, deputy director of the institute of clinical pharmacology at Peking University.

After initially emerging in India and Pakistan, the drug-resistant bacteria has been reported in countries like Britain, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, the United States, Sweden, and Japan, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

International trips were largely responsible for the new bug spreading, since most patients in these countries had traveled to India or Pakistan, experts said.

"Given its geographic proximity to the two countries, China is also at risk of the new superbug," Lu said.

The overuse of existing antibiotics and poor sanitation in most hospitals where the superbug has been reported put China at great risk of a potential outbreak, she warned.

Approximately 5 million people on the mainland annually contract a variety of infections during hospitalization, accounting for 10 percent of the country's inpatients each year, official statistics show.

The Ministry of Health has acted quickly to draw up measures to prevent the new bug from appearing and spreading in China, including increased monitoring of antibiotic use and the promotion of good hygiene practices, such as hand washing and environmental sanitation, Lu noted.

While drug-resistant bacteria, which has been blamed on the excessive and improper use of antibiotics, is not a new phenomenon, the WHO has called on health authorities across the globe to be vigilant because bacteria containing the NDM-1 gene are much more drug resistant.

The overuse and abuse of antibiotics is prevalent in China, said Zhao Minggang, deputy director of the medical administration department of the health ministry.

"That leads to extra medical expenditure of 80 billion yuan ($11.7 billion) nationwide and many patients take antibiotics as a panacea," he said.

Last month, the Ministry of Health ordered surveillance posts to be established at key hospitals in each province to keep watch over the situation.

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