“Indian Superbug” Found in U.S. Pet Cat

Some unsettling news coming out of the 52nd annual Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) meeting on Tuesday: a recently-discovered drug-resistant “superbug” has been found in a domestic cat—the first instance of the infection in a pet. Few details are available at this time, including the location of the cat and people involved. It’s also not clear, according to the story reported by Maryn McKenna for Wired Science Blogs, “whether the cat passed NDM-1 on to its family or, conversely, whether the family were responsible for giving the bug to their pet.”

Dubbed the “Indian Superbug” (the acronym NDM-1 is derived from New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase) because of its ties to Southeast Asia, explains McKenna, NDM-1 is “actually a gene which encodes an enzyme which confers resistance to almost all known antibiotics.”

“The NDM-1 story has been long and contentious… but from the first, two things have been clear. However the political battles fall out, medicine views the emergence of this gene as a catastrophe, because it edges organisms to the brink of being completely non-responsive to antibiotics, as untreatable as if the infections were contracted before the antibiotic era began. And because the gene resides in organisms that happily live in the gut without causing symptoms, NDM-1 has been a hidden catastrophe, crossing borders and entering hospitals without ever being detected.” [1]

It’s far too soon to predict how significant a “catastrophe” NDM-1 might be for pets, their guardians, and caregivers remains to be seen. It’s not difficult to imagine, however, that NDM-1 will soon become—despite, or perhaps because of, how little is currently known about it—one more “concern” to be exploited by TNR opponents more interested in scaremongering than in public health.

Literature Cited
1. McKenna, M. (2012) “Superbug” NDM-1 Found In US Cat (ICAAC 3). Wired Science Blogs/Superbug http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/09/ndm-icaac-3