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
TEXT SIZE - +

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 Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid