The gene alters bacteria making them resistant to nearly all known antibiotics.
"A new type of resistance has emerged in India, this so-called "NDM-1" enzyme which destroys some of the most powerful antibiotics we have. It's transferable between bacteria, it's moved to different species, many are already very resistant, so we end up with these extremely resistant bacteria, some of which are circulating in India and some of which have been imported with patients back into the United Kingdom," said Professor David Livermore from the Health Protection Agency.
The superbug gene, which can be swapped between different bacteria to make them resistant to most drugs, has so far been identified in 37 people who returned to the UK after undergoing surgery in India or Pakistan.
"I think in the UK we don't actually have to hit the panic button at the moment. We have 50 patients who are presented with this ostensibly in the last year and a half, and that is much, much smaller than for instance the number of cases of MRSA. So, there's actually much difference, it's vastly different. But within India for instance we have (inaudible) coming out of India that have infected Indian and Pakistani patients that are pan-resistant to antibiotics, in other words, completely resistant, and therefore we have nothing left to treat them with, and from that point of view I think we should be very concerned," said Tim Walsh, Professor of Medical Microbiology at Cardiff University.
The threat is being seen as a serious global public health problem as there are few suitable new antibiotics in development and none that are effective against NDM-1. The Department of Health in Britain has already put out an alert on the issue.
(With Associated Press inputs)