Hospital superbugs with resistance to a "last resort" antibiotic have emerged independently in at least eight different countries, reveals a new study.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a major problem worldwide. It is highly resistant to most antibiotics, with the exception of vancomycin, which could be relied upon to kill the superbug.
An MRSA bug with increased resistance to vancomycin was discovered in 1997. But until now this resistance was thought to be emerging in only one type of MRSA.
"The results of our study show that the problem is much more serious than was previously thought," says Mark Enright, at the University of Bath, UK, who led the study.
"It's only a matter of time, perhaps just years, before bacteria that cannot be killed by vancomycin develop in some areas," he says. "There have already been three cases of this in the US, but we believe these will become more common."
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