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Superbugs: Rare genetic fusion to blame for spread


Nikita,CNN-IBN
Feb 13, 2012 at 10:19am IST

Mumbai: British scientists conducting a study on superbugs in London have discovered that a highly rare genetic fusion is to blame for the superbug NDM1. This fusion has given NDM1 the power to easily jump between various species of bacteria at a superfast speed, consequently making it drug resistant.

The scientists, who first reported the NDM1 last year, have now found that NDM1, by jumping between bacteria strains, can make several human diseases resistant to almost all known antibiotics.

It is no longer mere speculation. The key issue at stake is an era where antibiotics no longer work.

The German magazine, Der Speigel, recently published a report claiming that up to 100-200 million Indians may be carrying a new form of superbug ca-MRSA and ha-MRSA that is resistant to all known antibiotics in use.

Dr Khusrav Bajan of Fortis says, "Twenty years back, one bacteria would have been treated by an ordinary antibiotic and now you are facing a situation where the same bacteria has become resistant to the usual antibiotics and can therefore kill someone. You may theoretically see a situation where no antibiotics is available for a particular bacteria. That's a very dangerous scenario."

However, the government seems to be living in fool's paradise. It has refused to believe the findings of the study.

Dr VM Katoch, Director, ICMR, says, "I have repeatedly told everyone this should be in perspective. These bugs have been there in the environment for billions of years, much before human beings came. They are resistant to fight each other. They are not a danger to us. They are not an issue. But the drug resistance in general has to be fought with intelligent strategy."

Yet, the Health Ministry has shelved the ambitious National Antibiotic Policy, formulated more than a year ago, that aimed at completely banning over-the-counter sales of antibiotics.

However, the Health Ministry's own data says that nearly 20-50 per cent of antibiotic use in India is unrestricted and inappropriate.

While the Government has always denied the presence of superbugs in India, a year ago, Sir Gangaram Hospital admitted 8 patients with superbug infection and reported a 38 per cent incidence of NDM1 in its ICUs. Sassoon Hospital found that 20 patients carried the NDM1 bacteria while Hinduja Hospital found 12 cases of XXDR TB.

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 10,000 people a year in the US die because of superbugs. The most vulnerable are those in hospital.

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