People in three states have fallen prey to a new breed of superbugs, bacteria carrying a gene that makes them impervious to virtually any antibiotic. All three patients had recently received medical treatment in India, where the gene was first discovered, and has become widespread, the AP reports. “It’s a great concern,” said one infectious disease specialist. “It’s just a matter of time” until the gene, which was carried by three different bacteria in the US cases, spreads more broadly.
The bacteria carrying the gene are transmitted hand-to-mouth, so health officials are urging diligent hygiene—and looking to India with despair. The country is overpopulated, overuses antibiotics, and in many places lacks clean water. “The ingredients are there” for a major outbreak, says one microbiology professor. “It’s going to spread by plane all over the world.” The US cases, which occurred in California, Illinois, and Massachusetts, were unrelated. All three patients survived. For more on the gene, click here. (Read more NDM-1 stories.)