Scientists trace multi-drug resistant bacteria to India

Doctors say no need to panic, need robust hospital infection control mechanism.


Sonal Matharu | August 12, 2010

A team of scientists has made claims in its recent study that multi-drug resistant bacteria that causes multiple organ failure originated from Indian hospitals. The bacteria, named ‘New Delhi metallo beta lactamase’ or ‘NDM 1’, is said to be resistant to most antibiotics.

The study titled, ‘Emergence of a new antibiotic resistance mechanism in India, Pakistan, and the UK: a molecular, biological, and epidemiological study, was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal on August 11. The findings of the study may have serious implications on the healthcare industry in India as the spread of the disease is said to be because of lack of infection control in Indian hospitals.

The study states: Out of 29 patients identified with NDM 1 from the UK, at least 17 had a history of travelling to India or Pakistan within one year, and 14 of them had been admitted to a hospital in these countries. Reasons for these admissions included renal or bone marrow transplantation, dialysis, cerebral infarction, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pregnancy, burns, road traffic accidents, and cosmetic surgery.

Traces of the bacteria were first found in a patient from Sweden who was admitted in a hospital in New Delhi earlier. The bacteria are also found in Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore, Varanasi, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Rohtak, Kolkata, and Port Blair, the report says.

The team, lead by Timothy R Walsh, professor of medical microbiology and antimicrobial resistance, school of medicine, Cardiff University, studied the enzyme from Chennai and Haryana in India which were primarily from community acquired urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and blood-stream infections.

Meanwhile, Sri Ganga Ram Hospital’s microbiology department chairperson Dr Chand Wattal said that there is nothing alarming about the findings and the issue is blown out of proportion.
“Indian community responded to the name ‘New Delhi’ the scientists have given to the bacteria. The issue is just hyped up. It is a defence mechanism of any bacteria and there is no need to panic. There are several similar bacteria found in the US. Have Indians started going to the US? The bacteria should have been named ‘Sweden’ since it was first found there,” said Dr Wattal.
He added that Indian hospitals need to have better infection control mechanism.

Delhi health Minister Kiran Walia, however, said on Thursday afternoon that she was not aware of NDM 1. “I am not aware of the issue. I will look into it,” she said.

Out of 14 scientists, the team has six scientists from India.

The team has received funding from the European Union, Wellcome Trust (gives charity for biomedical research), and Wyeth (Wyeth Limited is a group company of Pfizer). The study also mentions the conflicts of interest of some members of the team. It states: “KK has received a travel grant from Wyeth. DML has received conference support from numerous pharmaceutical companies, and also holds shares in AstraZeneca, Merck, Pfizer, Dechra, and GlaxoSmithKline, and, as Enduring Attorney, manages further holdings in GlaxoSmithKline and Eco Animal Health. All other authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.”

A press release by the health ministry which was out on Thursday evening states: "It may be noted that similar plasmids have been reported from Israel, USA, Greece and even in this report from environment of Scotland. While such organisms may be circulating more commonly in the world due to international travel but to link this with the safety of surgery hospitals in India and citing isolated examples to show that due to presence of such organism in Indian environment,  India is not a safe place to visit is wrong.  It also needs to be highlighted that several of the authors have declared conflict of interest in the publication.The study was funded by European Union &  2 pharmaceutical company namely Wellcome Trust & Wyeth who produce antibiotics for treatment of such cases. DGHS in consultation with Secretary DHR & DGICMR strongly refute the naming of this enzyme as New Delhi metallo beta lactamase & also refute that hospitals in India are not safe for treatment including medical tourism."



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