News / Asia

New Study Warns of Widespread 'Superbugs' in South Asia

New Study Warns of Widespread 'Superbugs' in South Asia
New Study Warns of Widespread 'Superbugs' in South Asia

Indian health officials have rejected a new medical study warning of widespread drug-resistant bacteria in the country's capital.  But the co-author of the study says Delhi is in denial, and warns the bacteria can spread easily around the world, possibly threatening the effectiveness of medical treatments.

India's Health Ministry has issued a statement dismissing new British research warning of a dramatic spread of a bacteria containing a drug-resistant gene in the nation's capital.

The report was published Thursday in the British journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.  It focuses on the gene "NDM-1," in which ND stands for New Delhi.  A report last year cited the gene's presence here in bacteria found in hospital environments.  The newer report says the bacteria is now widespread in the city's drinking supply, sewer systems, and other public sources of water.

What concerns Dr. Mark Toleman, a co-author of the British study, is that NDM-1 turns ordinary illness-causing bacteria into what are known as "superbugs," which are all but impervious to antibiotics. "For these particular type of bacteria, there are no useful antibiotics left," he said.

That means simple bacterial illnesses, like dysentery, could become nearly impossible to treat with drugs.  Advanced procedures like surgery, which rely on antibiotics to control infection, could become much more dangerous.

The Indian Health Ministry statement, issued Thursday evening, describes the Lancet findings as "not significant."  The statement criticizes the study as being unsupported by clinical evidence, and points out that Indian patients respond well to antibiotic treatment.

Dr. Ranjit Roy Chaudhary is a senior advisor on medical policy to the Indian government.   He says the Lancet study should not be cause for alarm.

"The science of the study is good.  But the implication of the findings is always made a little more sensational than it is," Chaudhary said.

Chaudhary says India has long been aware it faces water management challenges. "This is not the first time bugs have been found in the water - even resistant bugs.  We shouldn't get alarmed by this.  We should take the ordinary precautions.  Boiling water for 20 minutes will get rid of it," Chaudhary said.

Still, Toleman insists India is in "extreme denial" about the potential danger of NDM-1.  He says that its spread is probably not limited to New Delhi. "Almost certainly it's much more widespread.  And I'm sure if we did a study in most, or maybe even all, of the major cities in India, we'd find it," he said.

Toleman and co-author Professor Timothy Walsh expect many more studies pointing to South Asia as a key culprit in spreading antibiotic-resistant bacteria globally via tourism and travel.

"The polluted water supply and the poor sanitation in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan is not only dramatically affecting the health of those individual nations, but ... this is having an effect on the health of the rest of the world," Toleman said.

The controversy over the Lancet report coincides with Thursday's World Health Day, sponsored by the United Nations World Health Organization, devoted this year entirely to the theme of antibiotic resistance.

Researchers widely agree that improper use of antibiotics, which is rampant in India, is making it easier for drug-resistant genes to emerge.  The Indian government is expected to announce new policies to restrict access to antibiotics in a matter of days.

Related video report by Vidushi Sinha:

You May Like

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: US Army Turns Its Best Minds Toward Ebola

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Dissident Venezuelan General Resurfaces in New York

Antonio Rivero has resurfaced after nearly a year in hiding, appearing at United Nations in New York More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Goghi
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid