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NDM-1 in Pune: Researchers

The controversial multi-drug-resistant superbug,the origin of which has been a matter of debate with the Centre taking strong exception to it being named after New Delhi

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune | Published: April 23, 2011 1:11:38 am

‘Superbug gene detected in 20 patients’

The controversial multi-drug-resistant superbug,the origin of which has been a matter of debate with the Centre taking strong exception to it being named after New Delhi,researchers from the government-run B J Medical College (BJMC) and the National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS),in preliminary findings of a study to find the New Delhi metallobeta lactamase-1 (NDM-1) incidence in Pune,reported the strain in the city.

Ever since an article in medical journal The Lancet on August 11 said the superbug was detected in a Swedish patient who returned from New Delhi after treatment,hence the name,the Centre has been contesting it. The Lancet recently followed it up with another article claiming NDM-I presence in Delhi’s water supply,which was again rejected by the Centre and the Delhi government as wrong.

There,however,was a turnaround in the attitude from complete denial of the strain originating in Delhi,amid allegations it was a ploy to hurt medical tourism,to action mode,with the Central Health Ministry going on the backfoot and waking up to the threat and the Indian Council of Medical Research inviting applications for research into the superbug.

In Pune,clinical microbiologists at the government-run BJMC and Sassoon General Hospital and the NCCS collected samples of blood,urine and pus from 3,172 patients at Sassoon General Hospital in the last two months and found that 885 had gram negative bacilli (bacteria which causes a majority of infections). Of these 885 as many as 181 patients were resistant to the carbapenem family of drugs while 20 were detected with the NDM-1 gene.

NDM-1 is an enzyme that makes bacteria resistant to a broad range of beta-lactam antibiotics including antibiotics of the carbapenem family,a mainstay for treatment of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The gene for NDM-1 is a member of a large gene family that encodes beta-lactamase enzymes called carbapenemases. Infections with these bacteria are hard to treat successfully,say microbiologists.

Dr Renu Bharadwaj,Dean,B J Medical College,told the Express that these were preliminary findings of an ongoing study. “What we also want to emphasize is that the superbug is not exclusively India’s. Data from well-known medical journals across the world document emergence of similar metallo-ß-lactamases bacteria from at least 28 countries including South Korea,Japan,China,Greece,Brazil,Australia,Italy,Portugal and Spain. “Now that facilities for gene sequencing are available,we are able to detect the bacteria,” says Dr Yogesh Shouche,senior scientist at NCCS.

Researchers said that the potential of NDM-1 to explode into a worldwide public health threat is great,and co-ordinated international surveillance is the need of the hour. Detection of NDM-1 is important as it shows an increasing presence of drug-resistant bacteria. “What is worrying is that we will have limited drugs to treat infections,” says Bharadwaj.

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