Britain's First Drug-Resistant 'Superbug' Cases Found
By David Luhnow

GLASGOW, Scotland (Reuters) - Two patients in a Scottish hospital have become the first in Britain to contract a so-called ``superbug,'' resistant to nearly all known antibiotics, hospital officials said on Friday.
Two elderly patients at Glasgow's Royal Infirmary tested positive for a bacterial strain of the common hospital-based ``staph'' infection that is partly resistant to vancomycin, the antibiotic often used as a last resort.
"This is the first time we have identified this in Britain,'' Simon Barber, a spokesman for the Public Health Laboratory Service in London, told Reuters.
"This is a serious situation because what it means is that in some situations the range of antibiotics available for treatment is going to be reduced,'' he added.
Doctors around the world have found thousands of cases where ordinary staph infections -- or staphylococcus aureus -- have developed into a strain called MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staph a. They are then normally treated with vancomycin.
Some newer strains found in the United States and elsewhere have even shown signs of resistance to vancomycin. These are what Barber called VISA -- or Vancomycin Intermediate-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus.
"The strain is not wholly resistant to drugs, but shows signs of developing total resistance,'' Barber said.
One of the patients in Glasgow was reported to have been placed in isolation at the hospital, but the other was being monitored at home. Barber said neither patient actually got infected by the bacteria, but were detected with it during routine testing.
"I think it's very important the public realise that this is not a superbug that is a killer bug,'' John Hood, consultant bacteriologist at the Glasgow hospital, told the BBC.
"This particular strain hasn't killed anybody so far. It's not spreading like wildfire, in fact it hasn't spread to anybody,'' he added.
But the longer term concerns are serious.
``These are bugs which are resistant to many or all the antibiotics. They are driving us back to the pre-antibiotic era,'' Dr Hugh Pennington at Aberdeen University told the BBC.
The problem stems from rampant use of antibiotics, experts say. During a single human generation of 25 years, bacteria go through 100,000 generations, according to the experts.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control has said the problem is "urgent'' and
estimates some 50 million unnecessary prescriptions are written for antibiotics each year in the United States.
U.S. doctors estimate as many as 70 percent of the bacteria in infections that people get in hospital now are resistant to at least one antibiotic.