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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid