Nature India | Indigenus

The bug returns

The superbug controversy sprung back this week with the publication of a fresh report on the NDM-1 bacteria in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. India’s health ministry was quick to negate the report calling it “unsupported by any clinical or epidemiological evidence”.

The story began in August 2010, when British scientist Timothy Walsh and colleagues reported finding the antibiotic-resistant superbug NDM-1 in India, Pakistan and the UK. The Indian government went on a denial mode, displeased with the naming of the microbe (New Delhi metalloßlactamase 1) and contending that it could ruin the country’s medical tourism prospects.

On April 7, 2011, Walsh and colleagues claimed in another report that “not all patients infected with NDM-1-positive bacteria have a history of hospital admission in India, and extended-spectrum β-lactamases are known to be circulating in the Indian community.” They measured the prevalence of the NDM-1 gene in drinking water and seepage samples in New Delhi to find bacteria in environmental samples. This, they say, has important implications for people living in the city reliant on public water and sanitation facilities. The Indian health ministry maintains that its water supplies are fine and people need not panic over the report.

As of now then, the issue seems like it needs some intensive follow-up. The Indian government may choose to ignore it at its own peril.

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