News / Asia

    Concerns Mount Over India's Role In Incubating Drug-Resistant Bacteria

    Female Hindu pilgrims take a dip at the confluence of the Ganges river and the Bay of Bengal at Sagar Island, India, January 13, 2012. (Reuters)Female Hindu pilgrims take a dip at the confluence of the Ganges river and the Bay of Bengal at Sagar Island, India, January 13, 2012. (Reuters)
    x
    Female Hindu pilgrims take a dip at the confluence of the Ganges river and the Bay of Bengal at Sagar Island, India, January 13, 2012. (Reuters)
    Female Hindu pilgrims take a dip at the confluence of the Ganges river and the Bay of Bengal at Sagar Island, India, January 13, 2012. (Reuters)
    Kurt Achin
    Medical research is once again pointing to India as a dangerous crucible of bacterial strains that resist many forms of antibiotic treatment. Cheap, under-regulated antibiotics and a severe shortfall of sanitation infrastructure fuel the problem.

    Medical experts warn India remains at the forefront of what the World Health Organization calls “the post-antibiotic era,” in which a wide range of infectious bacteria evolve past the ability of even potent medicines to treat them.

    So-called “superbugs” contain a gene named NDM-1, which boosts the ability of bacteria to resist even powerful antibiotics. The ND stands for New Delhi, where it was found in a difficult-to-treat Swedish patient hospitalized in 2007 in the Indian capital. Four years later, a study in the British medical journal Lancet warned bacteria containing NDM was widespread not only in New Delhi hospitals, but also in the Indian capital's drinking supply and sewer systems.

    K. Kumarasamy is a microbiologist in the Indian city of Chennai who specializes in drug-resistant pathogens. He says superbugs are coming to be found not only in hospitals but in outpatient clinics, and warns his country is becoming a breeding ground for drug-resistant germs.

    "There are lot of evidences that it is one of the epicenters," said Kumarasamy.

    When bacteria evolve to become drug resistant, even simple illnesses like dysentery can become nearly impossible to treat. Advanced procedures like surgery, which rely on antibiotics to control infection, become much more dangerous.

    The problem here in India stems mainly from the fact that the market is flooded with cheap, mass-produced, and under-regulated antibiotics. Dr. Mark Toleman is a molecular geneticist at Britain's Cardiff University.

    "Very powerful antibiotics are freely available by anybody off the street wanting to purchase [them]," said Toleman. "In many other nations in the world they are quite tight[ly] controlled. I think that's the main problem as regards the overuse of antibiotics."

    Last year's Lancet study, co-authored by Toleman, came under sharp criticism over its methodology. Some Indian leaders accused Toleman and other researchers of deliberately trying to discredit India's emerging medical tourism industry. Toleman describes India as being in a state of denial.

    "Even to be seen to be doing something constructive about the problem is obviously in India's best financial interest as well as just the general interest of her own population," he said. "So, it's very difficult for me to understand why the Indian government [is] trying to brush it, as it were, under the carpet."

    Unsanitary conditions in India are blamed for creating an environment for superbugs - both in emerging megacities, and in rural locations where toilet infrastructure is nearly nonexistent.

    Nitya Jacob, head of water issues at New Delhi's Center for Science and Environment, co-authored a recent study called “Excreta Matters.”

    "India has a capacity to treat only about a fifth of its sewage and I think about 40 percent of that capacity is concentrated in just two cities of Delhi and Bombay," said Jacob.

    Superbug researcher Kumarasamy says the Indian government needs to act urgently to prevent the spread of drug-resistant diseases.

    "First of all, the banning of self-medication," said Kumarasamy. "Proper antibiotic control. Next, they have to initiate [an] antibiotic surveillance network all over India."

    The World Health Organization describes antibiotic resistance as “one of the biggest health scares to the world”. The United Nations agency estimates about 150,000 people die annually from drug resistant tuberculosis alone.

    You May Like

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora