Centre trashes superbug link

Similar bacteria found in Greece, UK

Centre trashes superbug link

The government’s stand was echoed in the Rajya Sabha where members suspected the hand of multinational pharmaceutical and hospital companies behind the claims.

Demanding a response from the government, BJP Rajya Sabha member S S Ahluwalia, who was supported by Congress’ Jayanti Natarajan, said: “When India is emerging as a medical tourism destination, this type of news is unfortunate and may be a sinister design of multinational companies to defame the Indian medical sector.”

As the so-called scientific claims snowballed into a controversy, it has emerged that the New Delhi Metallo-1 (NDM-1) superbug that can resist almost all types of antibiotics has been found in Bangalore too. The country’s IT capital was among 11 Indian cities where researchers spotted the superbug in two common hospital bacteria, making them highly drug-resistant and extremely difficult to treat.

The other cities where NDM-1 mutation––a change in genetic structure––was found are Guwahati, Mumbai, Varanasi, Pune, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Port Blair, Delhi and Rohtak along with eight Pakistani cities and Dhaka.

Unacceptable

In Bangalore, several senior doctors felt that blaming India for the origin of the resistant enzyme was unacceptable as it is prevalent in developed countries as well. “In the west, people use more antibiotics leading to resistance among bacteria and enzymes. So, potentially, a person getting infected with superbugs is more in western countries,” said Dr Devi Shetty of Narayana Hrudayalaya.

On behalf of the Centre, Indian Council of Medical Research director general V M Katoch said the government would soon draft a reply to the British scientists’ claims after a meeting of the National Centre for Disease Control, a nodal agency under the Health Ministry.

“Its not a public health threat. Drug resistance can develop anywhere in world. Bacteria with similar genetic profile was found in UK, Greece and Israel,” Katoch told
Deccan Herald.

“When you link it to something to our anti-biotics policy, say India specific, and say it is dangerous to get operated in India and so you will get more infections, then it is totally irrational,” Katoch said.

He said the Health Ministry will examine the issue in detail but it was “unfortunate that this new bug, which is an environmental thing, has been attached to a particular country which is India in this case”.

“I am surprised,” he said, adding that, “this (the bug) is present in nature and is a biological phenomenon. It is a random event and cannot be transmitted”.

Katoch said:“Nobody should be scared of Indian hospitals. They are good and if the hospitals follow sound infection prevention strategies, there is no question of infection by drug-resistant bacteria and their spreading.”

The ICMR chief, however, admitted that NDM-1 appeared to be more dangerous that MRSA (another super-bug known as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus). While MRSA is a “gram positive bacteria” for which more drug options are available, NDM-1 is a “gram negative” bacteria with limited treatment options.

Gram negative bacteria are more complicated to treat because they have an additional membrane around their cell walls, because of which many antibiotics could not kill them.
Bacteria with NDM-1 potentially herald the end of treatment with (drugs like) beta-lactams, fluoroquinolones and aminoglycosides – the main antibiotics for gram negative bacteria. The researchers indicated widespread non-prescription use of antibiotics as the reason for the development of drug-resistance.

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