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Medical Tourists Should Beware of Drug-Resistant Superbug NDM-1

  • Published: 2010-09-22 (Revised/Updated 2014-04-30) : Author: The New York Group for Plastic Surgery
  • Synopsis: The World Health Organization has issued a warning to medical travelers regarding drug resistant superbug NDM-1.

Quote: "The bacteria could possibly result in a lack of supply in antibiotics specifically created for infectious diseases because of the gene's ability to become highly resistant to almost all antibiotics."

Main Document

New York Plastic Surgery News: Medical Tourists Beware of Drug-Resistant Superbug NDM-1.

The World Health Organization has issued a warning to medical travelers: let the buyer beware. This warning comes on the heels of a growing threat of an antibiotic-resistant superbug, known as the New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM-1), named after the region in India where it was discovered.

"Many medical travelers go overseas for procedures such as hip or knee replacements, ACL surgeries, root canals and spinal fusions," explained Dr. R. Michael Koch of the New York Group For Plastic Surgery, a New York plastic surgery practice. "However, many medical tourism patients who seek cheaper plastic or cosmetic surgeries abroad such as breast augmentation, reconstructive surgery and liposuction, may be getting more than they bargained for in the end with this superbug."

Currently, scientists and researchers are actively trying to prevent the spread of this bug, which began as a result of plastic surgery patients carrying back this new class of superbug from South Asia to Britain. The bacteria could possibly result in a lack of supply in antibiotics specifically created for infectious diseases because of the gene's ability to become highly resistant to almost all antibiotics, according to a report in Britain's medical journal, The Lancet.

There have been three diagnosed cases of NDM-1 in the United States.

All three patients had received medical care in India, which is a country that is well known for affordable healthcare. With no new medications being developed to combat NDM-1, this antibiotic-resistant superbug could spark a global health concern. The Center for Disease Control is making research a "very high priority" and is requesting that any samples of bacteria possessing NDM-1 "be sent to CDC for further investigation."

With overseas medical tourism on the rise, American healthcare providers are trying to remain competitive in this emerging market by lowering their prices in order to be competitive. The push for domestic medical tourism could result in lower prices and quality healthcare for cosmetic surgery patients without their having to leave the United States.

"This 'superbug' is exactly the reason why we wish to keep plastic surgery patients here in New York," said Dr. Koch. "These kinds of infections just don't happen here, thanks to stringent medical regulations and standards." Dr. Koch further advised that since plastic surgery patients are better protected in the U.S., it should one day reduce the need to travel overseas for affordable cosmetic or reconstructive surgery procedures.


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