Should we be afraid of the superbug?

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Foreign Policy


Communicable Disease Control; Global Health


For a few days this August, much of the news media in the West became convinced that we were headed back to the 1800s, medically speaking. A study in the September 2010 issue of British medical journal the Lancet argued that bacteria carrying genes for NDM-1, a gene that imparts resistance to a key family of antibiotics, had made their way through India and Pakistan into Britain and were now threatening to derail medical treatment across the developed world. Linked with the always shady-sounding concept of "medical tourism" -- the practice of traveling to other countries for budget surgery -- the so-called "superbug," able to breed vicious and deadly infections, became an instant media panic during a slow news month. The the reality of superbugs is a bit more complex than the media has portrayed it.

Open Access