Turns out the New Delhi superbug isn’t all that super

The four patients at the Life Glynwood private hospital in Benoni, east of Johannesburg, who were reported to have died from superbug New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM-1) in fact, succumbed to other complications, according to a spokesperson for the Life hospital group, Marietjie Shelly.

Professor Adriano Duse of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) confirmed this, saying the patients had died from other serious illnesses and the bug was just a contributing factor to their deaths. He added that the fourth person who died this week actually died from entirely unrelated complications.

By the middle of October, of the several hundred patients who had been screened at the hospital, ten people had been found to be infected with the bacterial strain.

Patients infected with the NDM-1 bacteria strain were kept in isolated facilities at Glynwood hospital and some were discharged after a full recovery.

NDM-1 is resistant to nearly all antibiotics, including carbapenem antibiotics — also known as antibiotics of last resort.

In South Africa, the bug has not been confined to the Glynwood hospital. In September a carrier of the NDM-1 bacteria was discovered at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg.

But Duse urged people not to panic saying only ill people with compromised immune systems would get sick.

The bacteria can live inside a person without causing illness, he said. Only if the bacteria move from the gut into the bloodstream or organs can it cause serious problems, said Duse.

If the bacteria infected a person’s blood it could lead to septicaemia or blood poisoning — and if it infected the lungs, the person could develop pneumonia.

More studies were needed to see how many people were carrying the bug and how prevalent it is outside hospitals, said Duse. He said medical experts had no idea how many people were carriers but didn’t think it was a large percentage of the population.

Hospitals with the resources available could screen people to see if they were carrying the bug and then place them in isolation, rather than keeping them in close confinement with other patients.

But he said most hospitals did not have the facilities to screen all of their patients before admitting them to high care or intensive care.

Outbreaks of other more serious diseases that have left South Africans concerned were swine flu and bird flu.

Just over 90 people died of swine flu in 2009 out of more than 12 000 reported cases. The disease was fatal in people with compromised immune systems, the elderly, pregnant women and the very young.

But to put deaths from strange diseases in perspective, 40 people on average die a day in crashes on South Africa’s roads, according to Gary Ronald, head of public affairs at the Automobile Association.

Ronald also told the Mail & Guardian that according to the World Health Organisation by 2020, more people in developing countries would die from traffic accidents than malaria and HIV combined.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


Two dead in new ANC KwaZulu-Natal killings

A Mtubatuba councillor and a Hammarsdale ANC Youth League leader were shot yesterday near their homes

Inside Facebook’s big bet on Africa

New undersea cables will massively increase bandwidth to the continent

No back to school for teachers just yet

Last week the basic education minister was adamant that teachers will return to school on May 25, but some provinces say not all Covid-19 measures are in place to prevent its spread

Engineering slips out of gear at varsity

Walter Sisulu University wants to reprioritise R178-million that it stands to give back to treasury after failing to spend it

Press Releases

Covid-19: Eased lockdown and rule of law Webinar

If you are arrested and fined in lockdown, you do get a criminal record if you pay the admission of guilt fine

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

Call for applications for the position of GCRO executive director

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory is seeking to appoint a high-calibre researcher and manager to be the executive director and to lead it

DriveRisk stays safe with high-tech thermal camera solution

Itec Evolve installed the screening device within a few days to help the driver behaviour company become compliant with health and safety regulations

Senwes launches Agri Value Chain Food Umbrella

South African farmers can now help to feed the needy by donating part of their bumper maize crop to delivery number 418668

Ethics and internal financial controls add value to the public sector

National treasury is rolling out accounting technician training programmes to upskill those who work in its finance units in public sector accounting principles

Lessons from South Korea for Africa’s development

'Leaders can push people through, through their vision and inspiration, based on their exemplary actions'