India slams reports of `superbug` in Delhi water

Last Updated: Apr 07, 2011, 00:00 AM IST

New Delhi: India today came out out strongly against a report on presence of a drug resistant bacteria in the public water system of the capital saying the motives behind it were not "scientific" and the government will respond in an appropriate forum.

"Just to keep the heat on a country or a region...is not scientifc motive for a study," Secretary Department of Health Research V M Katoch told reporters here.

"Enough is enough, scientifically we will respond toit in an appropriate forum," Katoch, who is also the Director of Indian Council of Medical research said.

International medical journal `Lancet` reported that deadly superbug NDM-1 was found in about a quarter of water samples taken from drinking supplies and puddles on the streets of New Delhi.

He said that the report was unsupported by any"clinical and epidemiological" evidence and also does not highlight the "unstable character of the isolates".

Quoting from a study conducted by microbiologists of the Ganga Ram Hospital, Shashi Khare, Deputy Director National Centre for Disease Control, said, out of 1,944 pregnant women surveyed, none had any Carbapenem resistance which should be
present if a person is carrying NDM 1 bacteria in their gut.

The study was carried out over the last two years. The research shows that E Coli isolated from the gut of a large randomly selected sample of pregnant women did not show any carbapenem resistant E Coli in the stool samples indicating no
presence of NDM1, Khare said.

Katoch further said that the environmental presence ofNDM-I gene carrying bacteria finding since there is no clinical or epidemiological linkage of this finding in the
study area as given in the publication. The facts that patients respond well to medical and postsurgical antibiotic treatment indicates tha NDM-I is not a significant problem
inthe country.

Taking on the report further, Katoch said that the carbapenem antibiotic is not required to be used in the treatment of Cholera and Shigella dysentry as stated by the
study as these cases respond to commonly used antibiotics.

"The publication itself mentions that NDM-I gene is not a stable character in most of the isolates indicating that any time it can revert back to a sensitive state," he said.

Katoch added that transferring biological material out of the country for the purposes of any study without taking permission fromthe government was not legal. However, he could not eleborate on what if any steps can be taken against such
action.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Jal Board dispelled concerns following reports of presence of drug-resistant bacteria in the capital`s tap water and said the water being supplied by
the agency was "safe" for drinking.

"We want to assure that Delhi water is safe for drinking," DJB CEO Ramesh Negi told reporters and claimed that the water supplied by the agency conforms to the standards
prescribed by Bureau of Indian Standards.

Both the NDM-1 positive samples were from Ramesh Nagar, west of the Yamuna River, "but the report itself states that the strain cannot grow in tap water as it is
chlorinated," Negi said.

When asked about the reports of presence of drug-resistant bacteria in water, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said she has sought detailed reports about it from DJB
and Health Department.

"It (drug-resistant bacteria) has been found in water in some areas around the Red Fort. I have sought detailed reports about it," she said.

Experts say it is the latest proof that the new drug-resistant bacteria, named after New Delhi, is widely circulating in the environment and could potentially spread to
the rest of the world.

The superbug can only be treated with a couple of highly toxic and expensive antibiotics. Since it was first identified in 2008, it has popped up in a number of countries, including the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada and
Sweden.

Most of those infections were in people who had recently travelled to or had medical procedures in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh.

India had earlier protested against the naming of the bug after its capital, saying the research was not supported by scientific data.

Director General of Health Services R K Srivastavasaid that that following the publication of the report in August last year, the government had written to the editor of
the `Lancet` asking him to publish a letter refuting the theory, but the magazine had refused to publish it.

PTI