Japan to hold nationwide survey of infections with superbug

Health Minister Akira Nagatsuma said the government will begin possibly later this week a survey of how far the new type of antibiotics-resistant bacteria has spread across Japan.

The government "would like to gather more information on the nationwide situation relating to multidrug-resistant bacteria," Nagatsuma said yesterday. The government also intends to enhance reporting requirements concerning bacteria, leading the multidrug- resistant Acinetobacter to be added to the current list of five types of multidrug-resistant bacteria whose detection must be reported to the government, he was quoted as saying by Kyodo news agency.

Nagatsuma's statement came after Dokkyo Medical University Hospital announced on Monday that it found a new variant of superbug carrying the NDM-1 gene, which makes bacteria resistant to most antibiotics, in a Japanese male patient in his 50s after his return from India. The finding represented the first detection of such a superbug in Japan.

The hospital said it detected multidrug-resistant E. coli in the patient through a blood test in May last year after he was hospitalised the previous month, but was unable to identify what specific resistance gene was carried.

The hospital then confirmed that the bacteria had the NDM-1 gene, which is believed to come from India or Pakistan, through a cultivation test last month on the recommendation of the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry.

At a press conference, a hospital official said while an exact infection route remains unknown, it is likely the superbug was brought from India, noting that the patient received treatment at a hospital there.

The patient already recovered and left the hospital and no in-hospital infections were observed, the hospital said. In another development on Monday, Nagatsuma's ministry inspected Teikyo University Hospital here over the deaths of inpatients from infection with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the hospital's delayed reporting of the situation to authorities.

Nagatsuma also told reporters that the National Institute of Infectious Diseases and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will start an on-the-spot investigation at the hospital later this week into its measures for the prevention of in-hospital Acinetobacter infections.

After examining the findings, the ministry will consider how to block a potential spread of in-hospital infections with the new type of antibiotics-resistant bacteria, he said. Kyodo, quoting sources familiar with the matter, said the government will determine how to confirm the presence of the NDM-1 gene in bacteria found in patients.

Drug-resistance in bacteria, blamed on the excessive use and misuse of antibiotics, is not new, but the World Health Organisation has issued a warning on NDM-1 following research published in The Lancet medical journal last month.

The government also hopes to clarify whether any newly- found infection cases are linked to the patient found with the bacteria at Dokkyo Medical University Hospital. At present, various medical institutions in Japan are conducting tests to see whether bacteria detected in body specimens collected from patients of infectious diseases are resistant to various antibiotics.

Any medical institution detecting bacteria that can resist multiple antibiotics in body specimens may be required to send the specimens in question to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases for further checks to see if the specimens contain the NDM-1 gene, the report said.

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