Survey throws up presence of superbug; antibiotics to blame?

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Antibiotic action
Pune, May 6: The 'superbug" issue is back in focus and a recent survey has revealed that the bug is very much present in India as feared. A recent survey at the Sassoon Hospital revealed that around 20 of the 3,172 patients seem to carry the superbug, NDM-1 gene.

Most of the patients who are admitted, ie., close to sixty-six per cent showed multidrug resistance. This could indirectly mean that there is no antibiotic capable to work against the superbug and other diseases, experts say.

Renu Bharadwaj, Dean of the BJ Medical College has been quoted as saying to a pouplar English newspaper, The Hindu that, “The reason for the emergence of this mechanism is that there has been a large-scale misuse of antibiotics, resulting in high resistance. There is need for a more disciplined use. We need to preserve the antibiotics available to us. International monitoring is necessary."

The medical college which was involved in tests on the 3,172 patients over a period of two months revealed the existence of many such superbugs including the NDM-1 (New Delhi metallo-beta lactamase-1), a bacterium which is latest in genetic mechanism.

Lancet, the British medical journal in its report on Aug 2010 had revealed that NDM-1 was found in drinking water samples and sewage water in Delhi. Dr. Bharadwaj opined that the prevalence of NDM-1 could be due to immunodeficiency in patients. She suggested, “NDM-1 can be treated with the anti-bacterial drug, Colistin, which is very expensive."

On the controversy and fear surrounding the superbug, she added, “No epidemic can spread due to NDM-1. We need to be careful about how we use the antibiotics." The study had thrown up interesting findings in Sassoon Hospital which revealed that 181 patients showed resistance to the highest level of antibiotics, Carbapenems. They are believed to be resistant to most beta lactamases.

Dr. Bharadwaj, however, said that Pune was not a unique case and a study anywhere else could produce similar results. The overuse, or rather misuse of antibiotics were deemed the killer and the availability of such medicines over the counter adds to the issue.

Bharadwaj"s concerns were amplified by Sharad Agarkhedkar, President of the city unit of the Indian Medical Association who spoke to The Hindu, “There is no antibiotics policy in India. They are freely available which can be dangerous in the long-run. When they are prescribed by doctors, very often the patients don't complete the entire dose, increasing the chances of relapse."

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