Just another superbug

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There's been a lot of discussion lately about a new superbug. Apparently, it may not be as "super powerful" as some people may think.

Research indicates that the new superbug, which is widespread in India, would not be more dangerous than methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or other antibiotic-resistant bugs. Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that there have not been new cases involving this germ in the United States since an initial health warning in June of this year. 

Unfortunately, the clarification may be too little, too late. It comes after a report in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases last week suggested the bacteria could spread to the United Kingdom and United States as people travel to India to receive less costly medical procedures. The bug has already been found in the U.K., U.S., Netherlands, Canada, Australia and Sweden.

The name of the bacteria, New Delhi Metallo Beta Lactamase -1" (NDM-1), has caused a stir because it contains the name of India's capital city, New Delhi. People believe that may hurt India's reputation as a place for medical tourism. (There's even a petition to change the name: http://www.petitiononline.com/superbug/.)

We all know how incendiary a scourge's name can be. Remember the swine flu? The government gradually started calling the flu H1N1 to take away the blame from the bacon-producing species worldwide.

You could argue that the swine flu is the swine flu—no matter how you refer to it, but I think the new bug, NDM-1, is a little different. I don't think most people will associate it with its full name, the New Delhi Metallo Beta Lactamase-1 bug, which is a lot longer and harder to say.

Also, I think that Americans are getting used to the hype over superbugs, pandemics and strange illnesses. Every other day we seem to be hearing about a new strain of something.

The reality is the growth in the use of antibiotics has become a global problem. Unfortunately, it comes at a price. India, which has developed high-quality hospitals and well-trained doctors, has enticed some Americans to be treated there because of the lower price tags. Apparently, there is a cost to that, too.

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McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.

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