Combating The Killer: The NDM1 Superbug

Posted on October 26, 2011 in Health and Life

By Ranjeet Kumar:

The existence of superbug has raised concerns to the mankind at large with recent reports pouring in from places across the globe with the Indian subcontinent as the hotspot. These are bacteria who have acquired defenses against wide range of antibiotics that are used to target them. Thus making antibiotics completely non-functional on them by exercising their multi-drug-resistance attributes. The resistance is encoded mainly on the self-replicating extra-chromosomal piece of circular DNA called plasmids. These attributes can be transferred to new bacterium via the normal mode of gene transfers like conjugation, transformation and transduction on the same time the horizontal gene transfer could also initiate rapid propagation.

The reports of superbug with NDM1 gene in the national capital in several hospitals have raised serious questions too. The official statement by the government has further brought an end to the controversy. Now when it’s known that the killer bug has emerged and new reports are pouring in from other parts of the country as well, immediate interventions are needed. The problem of antibiotic resistance is not new to the scientific world; it has co-evolved with the developing field of antibiotics. In a country like India there is no strong legislation pertaining to the use of antibiotics. Usually it’s sold without any prescription. The emergence of antibiotic resistant strains can further be attributed to their excessive use in animal husbandry as a growth promoting additive which has resulted in contamination of water resources. As a result, the antibiotics have made an entry into the products that we consume. A recent report by the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi, found the presence of several antibiotics in honey marketed by known brands in the country. To add to this is our obsession. For every infection right from common cold to complex disorders we see antibiotics as the panacea without even bothering to look for the cause of the disease. This initiates an irrational overuse misuse and abuse of the antibiotics. Dosage and treatment cycles are also not addressed.

The global pharmaceutical drug pipeline is drying with very few products and almost no new interest in the research intensive and less promising antibiotic world. The future combat strategy appears to be really weak. When malaria and tuberculosis are showcasing their dance of death on one hand the notorious superbug has also registered its presence with a bang. What strategies does the government have is absolutely not clear. Policies are awaited. Instead of creating any fuss it’s time to undertake a nationwide survey and act aggressively before it’s too late. The bacterium knows no geographical boundaries and it’s expected to infect millions of people by now. With reports coming from other part of the globe it’s high time for a collective effort to address the issue to its logical best.