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Antibiotics

Superbug gene from New Delhi found in the Arctic

by K. V. Venkatasubramanian, special to C&EN
February 9, 2019 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 97, ISSUE 6

 

A gene that confers resistance to multiple antibiotics and that was first discovered in urban India a decade ago has traveled almost 13,000 km into a remote region of the Arctic, researchers report (Environ. Int. 2019, DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2019.01.034). Soil samples taken from Svalbard, an archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole, contained a gene called blaNDM-1. The gene makes a protein known as New Delhi metallo-β-lactamase-1 and confers resistance to antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections that are resistant to multiple drugs. Concern about the spread of blaNDM-1 and other antibiotic-resistance genes is growing globally because they often target last-resort classes of antibiotics, such as carbapenems. blaNDM-1 and other antibiotic-resistance genes discovered in Arctic soils are likely spread in the fecal matter of migratory birds, other wildlife, and human visitors, says Newcastle University engineering professor David Graham. Graham led the international research team that identified the gene in the Arctic soil samples. “Encroachment into areas like the Arctic reinforces how rapid and far reaching the spread of antibiotic resistance has become,” Graham says.

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