Is the Andromeda Strain Here (and We Just Don’t Know It)?


“Microbes are always going to be one step ahead of us. Their generation time is 24 hours, ours is 30 years. They mutate, they change, they will find a way. They are amazing opportunists.”

Dorothy Crawford -Professor of Medical Microbiology at the University of Edinburgh 

Microbes have evolved with us over the millennia, shaping human civilization through infection, disease, and deadly pandemics. Our move from hunter-gatherer to farmer to city-dweller–which made us ever more vulnerable to microbe attack. Increased crowding and air travel–puts us at increasingly at risk.

A new mutation that makes bacteria resistant to pretty much every antibiotic known to man has become increasingly prevalent on the Indian subcontinent and has made the leap to both the UK and the United States, according to a new report in the Lancet. Because there's nothing modern medical science can do to stop it, the NDM-1 "superbug" may spread globally. 

NDM-1 (or New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase) is a gene mutation that provides common and harmful bacteria like E. coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae with a resistance that can even withstand carbapenems, the antibiotics used as a last resort when more common drugs have no effect. The gene has also been found on plasmids — particularly promiscuous bits of mobile DNA that can move easily between strains of bacteria. Scientists are tracking NDM-1's transcontinental jumps most likely they believe from "medical tourism."

"In many ways, this is it," the Guardian reported . "This is potentially the end. There are no antibiotics in the pipeline that have activity against NDM 1-producing Enterobacteriaceae. It is the first time it has got to this stage with these type of bacteria.""

There are many highly resistant bugs out there, and each time a new one arrives on the bacterial scene, the threat of a pandemic is declared but what what is worrisome is that the gene is highly mobile and there aren't really any treatments in the works to combat NDM-1 or to slow its spread. 

Casey Kazan via


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