Thursday, August 12, 2010

Super-bug named after New Delhi bugs India

There's a new bug in town, a superbug that can spread rapidly. It is extremely immune to antibiotics claim researchers in Britain. (Read: Government's clarification)So what exactly is this Bug. It's called NDM1, that stands for New Delhi Metallo-1. Considered to be extremely infectious in nature, the bug is completely resistant from all antibiotics known at present. (Read: Why superbug NDM1 is considered hard-core).

"It's not a single superbug, rather, it's a type of resistance that's been spreading about among different bacteria. The bacteria that pick up this resistance are resistant to virtually all the good antibiotics," said Professor David Livermore, Health Protection. But what's bugging India is that it is stinking of a conspiracy. A Conspiracy that could damage India's flourishing medical tourism that attract thousands of patients from the west. Most come to India in the lookout for high quality treatment at cheaper costs. Questions are now being raised about why the research was sponsored by two big pharmaceutical companies that may gain from the findings?Moreover, the Indian Health Ministry says the research is not supported by scientific data and has rubbished the conclusions. Also, furious about the bacteria named after the capital of the country, India is only reiterating the conspiracy theory. (Read: MNCs may be behind superbug 'propaganda', say MPs) "This phenomena is not India centric, the superbug is everywhere. It is wrong to blame India, its hospitals, and our drug policy. Indian hospitals are world class. This gives a very wrong message. We will register protest," said V M Katoch, Secretary, Department of Medical Research.However, the medical journal that published the study, Lancet, is highly respected and the report is being taken seriously.In case, there is a new highly resistant bacteria then it could affect millions of people in India. The most asked question at the moment is, what steps should India and Indians take to ensure it doesn't spread?The superbug theory is making headlines and the debate seems to be only heating up. Amidst all, a set doctors believe that the need of the hour is to gather more information about this virus. They say that the Indian government should order a detailed investigation into the matter rather than just rejecting the findings outright.Also, steps should be taken immediately to counter the possible spread of the bacteria.

Did the superbug evolve in India and has medical tourism contributed to its spread across the world? Closer reading of the research paper published in the British journal Lancet Infectious Diseases presents a very different picture. Suggestions that India is the fountainhead of this drug resistant bug are probably erroneous. (Read: Asian super bug hits the UK)Evidence suggests that the bug may possibly have been inadvertently introduced into India. (Read: Government refutes Lancet report on superbug study)Out of the 37 samples collected in UK, only 17 samples had history of travel to India or Pakistan. So, a question arises as to where did the rest 20 people contract this superbug? Also, the authors themselves admit that there is no genetic similarity between the UK and Indian strains. And the very first alert issued by the UK government on January 30, 2009, makes no mention of India. Instead, it lists presence of the bug in Greece, USA and Israel.

Moving on to the other part: If medical tourism is to blame for the spread of this super bug, how come Rohtak, Guwahati, and of all places Port Blair, are home to the bug and find mention in the research? They are not certainly hot destinations for medical treatment. (Read: Superbug named after New Delhi bugs India) (Read: Govt clarification on 'superbug' traced to India)Confirming this to NDTV, Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research, Dr V M Katoch said India may have actually been a victim of this bug, since it is spontaneously evolving all over the world."India is definitely not the source of origin of this so called superbug, it is omnipresent across the globe," Katoch said. (Read: Why superbug NDM1 is considered hard-core)Indian medical experts say the researchers may have flagged an important emergent problem, but to blame it on India's health system was stretching it too far. Health ministry is now planning to write a strong formal rejoinder to the journal refuting these findings.