Drug-Resistant Superbug Gene Crops up in Japan, Taiko Antiseptic Maker Surges

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Asian markets were Mixed Tuesday. In Japan the Nikkei 225 Index fell 0.8% to 9,226 and in Hong Kong the Hang Seng Index added 0.2% to close at 21,402. In China the Shanghai Composite Index inched up 0.1% to end the day at 2,698.

Japan has reported its first case of a bacterial infection containing a new gene called NDM-1 that causes microorganisms to become drug-resistant. This is scary stuff that leads to the proliferation of superbugs that can easily spread from person to person without viable treatments to keep them in check. The infection was detected at a university hospital, where a Japanese man was treated for E. coli after traveling to South Asia, according to the Japan Times. In the past year, 46 people have come down with drug-resistant bacterial infections at a Tokyo hospital, says Bloomberg. Patients in other countries have been infected, many after traveling to Asia for low-cost medical procedures.

Many Japanese already live in a state of heightened awareness where germs are involved. They are quick to break out surgical face masks if someone sneezes, and wear them out of courtesy if they come down with a cold. Japanese toilets boast extra cleaning features and there are even reports of ATM machines that clean money by heating it to 392 degrees, according to factsanddetails.com.

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Today's news sent shares in Taiko Pharmaceutical, a company that makes antiseptics, shooting up 28.9%. Taiko manufactures soaps as well as a product called We'll Shield. In gel or spray form, it's touted to kill viruses and bacteria on anything from doorknobs to toilet seats -- although it also ruins fabrics and corrodes metals.

Meanwhile, Japanese drugmakers closed lower today. Chugai Pharmaceutical tumbled 1.4%, Shionogi & Co sank 0.9%, Astellas Pharma retreated 0.8% and Kaken Pharmaceutical slid 0.6%.

Clarion, a car audio system manufacturer, dived 9.2% after news spread that it is to be removed from the list of companies contributing to the Nikkei 225 Average. Shares in carmakers fell as the yen gathered strength again. Nissan Motor lost 1.8%, Mazda slumped 1.6%, Honda dropped 1.4% and Toyota sliped 0.6%.

In Hong Kong, carmakers also lost value. Warren Buffett-backed BYD sank 1.7% after reporting a slump in August sales. Dongfeng Motor skidded 4.3% and Geely Automobile, new owner of the Volvo brand, fell 2.1%.

Hong Kong's best performers included steelmakers and appliance manufacturers. Maanshan Iron & Steel soared 5.7% and Angang Steel climbed 3.8%. Television maker Skyworth Digital rocketed up 10% and air conditioner and refrigerator maker Haier Electronics leaped 8.2%.

In China, steel producers countered falls in other sectors. The authorities have ordered about 30 steel mills in Hebei province to reduce their output, and some 18 mills to close down completely, reports Reuters. This could lead to a hike in prices once overcapacity is reduced. Shanghai-listed Angang Steel blazed up 2.8% in Shanghai, Wuhan Iron & Steel rose 0.8% and Baoshan Iron & Steel added 0.7%.

Among Chinese medical companies, Hualan Biological Engineering soared 1.7% and Tianjin Tianyao Pharmaceutical gained 0.8%, while China National Medicines plunged 1.6%. Drug companies around the world now face the challenge of finding a cure for drug resistant bacterial infections strengthened by the NDM-1 gene.
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