Medical tourism in India and Pakistan responsible for spread of NDM-1

Added 18/08/2010

Stethoscope

A new superbug, NDM-1, has been brought into UK hospitals thanks to medical tourism in India and Pakistan. A report in the Lancet, one of the UK’s leading medical journals, criticised medical tourism as the cause of the spread of the enzyme, which is immune to certain antibiotics. Many of the patients that brought NDM-1 over to the UK had travelled abroad to receive plastic surgery, but others were holidaymakers that had been hospitalised due to accidents or sudden illnesses.

NDM-1 stands for New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase 1 after it first made an appearance in a Swedish man that received medical treatment in New Delhi in 2008. It latches onto different forms of bacteria, such as E. coli, making them immune to antibiotics. There are currently no antibiotics that are effective against NDM-1.

Around 50 patients have contracted NDM-1 in the UK and infections have already begun to spread through UK hospitals. As it continues to spread, the enzyme could make all bacterial diseases immune to antibiotics. To prevent the spread of NDM-1, patients need to be isolated.

People might now think twice about travelling to India and Pakistan for medical tourism. If anyone is admitted to hospital in India or Pakistan and they fall ill when they return home, they should tell their doctor that they were in hospital abroad so that they know to look out for NDM-1.

Every year thousands of Brits travel abroad for medical tourism to receive plastic surgery or other medical treatment that they cannot afford at home. With the threat of NDM-1 already on our doorstep, how will it affect medical tourism?