Known as NDM-1, the enzyme appears to have emerged in South Asia last year and has since been spread back to the home countries of patients who visited Pakistan and India for discounted medical procedures like cosmetic surgery.
So far, the number of people identified as carrying the enzyme is small, including 37 in the U.K. and three from Australia. Cases in Canada and the U.S. have also been reported.
The death of a Belgian man linked to the superbug is believed to be the first fatality from it in the world.
“We are potentially at the beginning of another wave of antibiotic resistance, though we still have the power to stop it,” said Christopher Thomas, a professor of molecular genetics at the University of Birmingham.
Earlier this month, a chemical compound called GSK 299423 was found effective against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Some believe this could become a treatment for the new NDM-1 strain.