Deadly Indian Superbug Reported for First Time in Israel

Tel Aviv hospital quarantines woman infected with NDM-1 bacterium, resistant to antibiotics and the cause of deaths worldwide.

A deadly 'superbug' impervious to antibiotics has been detected for the first time in Israel.

Doctors at the Sheba hospital outside Tel Aviv say they have detected signs of the New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase 1 – commonly known as NDM-1 – in the past few days.

Hospital - Nir Keidar
Nir Keidar


A woman who took ill in India had brought the bug back with her, the hospital said.


"The patient was hospitalized for five days in New Delhi and was transferred to Israel during the course of her treatment," said Professor Gila Rahav of the hospital's infectious diseases unit, where the bug was discovered.


The woman was isolated after the bacteria were discovered, Rahav said.


NDW-1 is a bacterium comprising a drug-resistant enzyme gene that has already unleashed health scares across Europe, with deaths reported in the United Kingdom, Belgium and France.


"In this case the bacterium was not the cause of the patient's illness and no additional medication was needed. She was placed under strict quarantine," Rahav said, adding that departmental staff had been briefed  and that all other patients in the department had been tested for the bug.


Following the incident, the health ministry's special unit for antibiotic-resistant infections ordered all Israeli hospitals to test any patient who had received healthcare in India since 2008.


NDM-1 is believed to have first emerged in Pakistan and India and is similar to bacteria commonly found in the human intestine, including E.coli.


"The enzyme is found on a section of the stomach virus' genetic matter, and it can disperse any medication that binds to the virus, including penicillin and other antibiotics," said Professor Yehuda Carmeli, head of the Health Ministry's department for control of epidemic diseases and head of the epidemiology unit at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv.


"This resistant form of bacteria is very significant, as once it has entered the body, it is almost impossible to treat," Carmeli said. "As far as we can tell, it is transmitted from person to person, which is why it was decided to isolate the patient.


The health ministry said in a statement that it was well equipped to deal with all forms of infection but advised increased vigilance among all medical staff.