12 Aug : India on Thursday described as “totally irrational” a report that a new superbug resistant to antibiotics originated from the country and strongly protested a British alert in this regard and the new enzyme being named as ‘New Delhi Metallo- 1’.
“When you link it to our antibiotics policy, say it is India specific, say it is dangerous to get operated in India then you will get more infections, that is totally irrational,” Director General Indian Council for Medical Research V M Katoch said.
The Director General of Health Services R K Srivastava along with Katoch “strongly refuted the naming of the enzyme as New Delhi metallo beta lactamase and also refuted that hospitals in India are not safe for treatment including medical tourism”.
The health ministry came out with a hard-hitting statement after a paper published in scientific journal ‘Lancet’, said the new superbug, which is said to be resistant even to most powerful antibiotics, has entered UK hospitals and is travelling with patients who had gone to countries like India and Pakistan for surgical treatments.
The Department of Health in UK has already put out an alert on the issue.
The ministry said the conclusions of the article are loaded with inference that these resistance genes or organisms possibly originated in India and it may not be safe for the patients in the United Kingdom to opt for surgery in India.
It said the contents of the article present a “frightening picture” which is not supported by any scientific data.
The issue was also raised in the Rajya Sabha by members who suspected the hands of multi-national pharmaceutical companies and hospital chains behind the scientists’ claim.
Indian medical tourism industry is making rapid progress providing treatment and surgeries to global patients at significantly lower costs.
The sector has been estimated at Rs 1,200 crore.
The statement further said “it should have been highlighted that getting infection by such drug resistant bacteria is a matter of chance, is a global phenomenon and is preventable by sound infection prevention strategies which are followed in any good hospital”.
It may be noted that similar plasmids have been reported from Israel, USA, Greece and even in this report from environment of Scotland, it said.
“While such organisms may be circulating more commonly in the world due to international travel, but to link this with the safety of surgery in hospitals in India and citing isolated examples to show that due to presence of such organism in Indian environment, India is not a safe place to visit is wrong,” the statement said.
The health ministry took stock of the situation, including at a meeting of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
The study was funded by European Union and two pharmaceutical companies namely Wellcome Trust and Wyeth who produce antibiotics for treatment of such cases.
It was written by Karthikeyan K Kumaraswamy along with others.
Professor N K Ganguly, former director ICMR and a leading biotechnologist, said it was wrong to state that the superbug originated from India.