Scientists find superbug gene in New Delhi water
A superbug immune to nearly all known antibiotics has been found in water supplies and puddles on streets in New Delhi, a scientific study said Thursday, DPA reported.
The research by Britain's Cardiff University showed that the new drug-resistant New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM-1) bacteria was circulating in the city's environment.
Scientists called for urgent action by health authorities saying further studies were required in cities across India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to assess the environmental spread of the deadly bacteria.
"This study shows that international surveillance of resistance needs to be established," said the study published in the Lancet's Infectious Diseases journal.
"Resistance of this scale (NDM-1) could have serious public health implications because so much of modern medicine is dependent on the ability to treat infection," it said.
Cardiff scientists had in August identified the NDM-1 gene, discovering it in patients who had been hospitalized in India.
"Now, we know it is not present in hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) but is actually freely circulating in Delhi's environment, both in the water people drink and that which lay stagnant," Mark Toleman, one of the researchers, told the Times of India daily.
The resistant bacteria were found in public water meant for drinking, washing and preparing food as well as pools and rivulets in areas where children play.
Resistant bacteria were detected in 4 per cent of the drinking water samples and 30 per cent of the water pools.
The most worrying factor was that the NDM-1 gene had spread to 11 new species of bacteria including those which caused cholera and dysentery, scientists said.
This means when people carrying the superbug, especially children, suffer from a bout of cholera and dysentery it would be nearly impossible to treat them with the available antibiotics, the report said.
The study cited a United Nations report that showed that 650 million Indian citizens do not have access to a flush toilet and even more probably have no access to clean water.
New Delhi's sewage system is also inadequate - catering to only 60 per cent of the city's population.
"NDM-1 is widely disseminated in New Delhi and has spread into key enteric pathogens," the study said. The research said temperatures and monsoon flooding made the Indian capital ideal for the spread of NDM-1.