Superbug gene rife in Delhi water supply

Friday, April 8th, 2011

NDM-1 positive bacteria have shown up in patients returning from India, and it appears that the Delhi water supply is full of such drug-resistant bugs:

NDM-1 can cause many types of bacteria — including E coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae — to become resistant to powerful antibiotics called carbapenems, which are used when other antibiotics fail to work. The team also found the gene had spread to bacteria that cause cholera and dysentery. “Worryingly, dysentery caused by this particular isolate is currently untreatable,” said Mark Toleman, one of the authors.
The scientists involved in the study in New Delhi took samples both from tap water and seepage water collected in pools in streets or in rivulets. The NDM-1 gene was found in two of 50 drinking water samples and 51 of 171 seepage samples.

Poor sanitation in India, where 650 million people do not have access to a flush toilet and probably not to clean water either, is a major issue in the spread of bacteria carrying the gene. High temperatures, which are important for NDM-1 mobility, a crowded population, massive antibiotic over-use, under-use and misuse and poor infection control also contribute.

India’s government won’t admit that they have a problem:

“Following the publication of this study, the Indian government took draconian measures against the Indian scientists who collaborated with us and our colleagues were threatened,” said Toleman.

“This had the effect of severing these productive collaborations and the Indian authorities were in denial of the massive problems southern Asia is facing.”

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