Superbugs in Delhi drinking water

Scientists find superbugs in Delhi drinking water


A gene that makes bugs highly resistant to almost all known antibiotics has been found in bacteria in water supplies in New Delhi used by local people for drinking, washing and cooking, scientists said on Thursday.

The NDM 1 gene, which creates what some experts describe as "super superbugs", has spread to germs that cause cholera and dysentery, and is circulating freely in other bacteria in the Indian city capital of 14 million people, the researchers said.

"The inhabitants of New Delhi are continually being exposed to multidrug-resistant and NDM 1-positive bacteria", said Mark Toleman of Britain's Cardiff University School of Medicine, who published the findings in a study on Thursday.

A "substantial number" of them are consuming such bacteria on a daily basis, he told a briefing in London. "We believe we have discovered a very significant underlying source of NDM 1 in the capital city of India," he said.

NDM 1, or New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase 1, makes bacteria resistant to almost all antibiotics, including the most powerful class, called carbapenems.

It first emerged in India three years ago and has now spread across the world. It has been found in a wide variety of bugs, including familiar pathogens like Escherichia coli, or E. coli.

No new drugs are on the horizon for at least 5-6 years to tackle it and experts are concerned that only a few major drug companies, such as GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) and AstraZeneca (AZN.L), still have strong antibiotic development programmes.

Toleman's study, carried out with Cardiff University's Timothy Walsh and published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, investigated how common NDM 1-producing bacteria are in community waste seepage -- such as water pools or rivulets in streets -- and tap water in urban New Delhi.

The researchers collected 171 swabs from seepage water and 50 public tap water samples from sites within a 12 kilometre radius of central New Delhi between September and October 2010.

The NDM 1 gene was found in two of the drinking-water samples and 51 of seepage samples, the researchers said, and bacteria positive for NDM 1 were grown from two drinking-water samples and 12 seepage samples.

"We would expect that perhaps as many as half a million people are carrying NDM 1-producing bacteria as normal (gut) flora in New Dehli alone," Toleman said.

Experts say the spread of superbugs threatens whole swathes of modern medicine, which cannot be practiced if doctors have no effective antibiotics to ward off infections during surgery, intensive care or cancer treatments like chemotherapy.

Comment: In light of the above, GlaxoSmithKline and Astrazeneca could be good investments! Image source: Rivers of Sewage: India’s Rivers Are Slowly Dying

The first thing that a traveller to India learns is not to drink the tap water. And with good reason: millions of tonnes of sewage are dumped daily into India’s rivers – and some of them, such as the holy Yamuna and Ganges rivers – are slowly choking to death, jeopardizing the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.

"We talk a lot about industrial pollution of our rivers, but sewage pollution is a big problem," said Sunita Narain, the director of the Centre for Science and Environment on Thursday. "What is happening to the Yamuna is reflective of what is happening in almost every river in India. The Yamuna is dead, we just haven't officially cremated it yet."

Some of these rivers are the only source of water for drinking and domestic use for many poor Indian citizens, so while a tourist can make do with some plastic-packed substitute, the impact of industrial and human waste is further worsening the water crisis in a country that depends on its rivers for water in agricultural and human consumption.

A study done by the Central Pollution Control Board showed that around 70 percent of the pollution in the Yamuna is human excrement. In large metropolises such as New Delhi, 3.6 billion tonnes of sewage alone are dumped daily – but only half of that amount is effectively treated and the rest flows down the Yamuna, resulting in widespread waterborne illnesses such as diarrhea from drinking and bathing in the affected water.

Note to self: Not a destination!

1 comment:

  1. Same response I had to going to Malaysia as a vacation when I was there. It can be fun, but really can mostly be done safely by....people who are willing to drink nothing but tea, pop, beer, and bottled water for as long as they're there.

    Amazing what a health benefit can be had by keeping one's waste away from one's drinking water and food, ain't it? And scary to think how long people have ignored Moses on this "little" concept.....


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