It is summer and time for bacterial infections to spread in the Indian subcontinent. Delhiites are especially wary, as a new study says that potable water used for drinking and cooking may contain the NDM-1 or Superbug. The research has been published in the medical journal ‘Lancet’.
It was already known a few years ago that NDM-1 (New Delhi metallo-ß-lactamase-1) was a gene or an enzyme produced by certain bacteria, which allowed them to neutralise the harmful effects of carbapenems, one of the most powerful types of antibiotics available to doctors. In short, we all knew that NDM-1 made a bacteria immune to almost all known antibiotics.
Two types of bacteria have been host to NDM-1, the gut bacterium E.coli and another that can invade the lungs known as Klebsiella pneumonia. Both can lead to urinary tract infection and blood poisoning.
Earlier, people diagnosed with NDM-1 were thought to be medical tourists from the UK, who had recently travelled to India or Pakistan.
However, a team of scientists from Cardiff University have now discovered the trail of the bacteria (NDM-1) in the drinking water supply of the national capital New Delhi, after which the enzyme is named.
This has belied the results of earlier studies that said NDM-1 infections were traced to medical facilities and hospitals in India.
What is really worrying for Delhi’s inhabitants is the report that the gene has already spread to the bacteria that causes cholera and dysentery here.
This means that when people, especially children, infected with the Superbug, suffer from cholera or dysentery, it would be nearly impossible to treat them with available antibiotics.
Cardiff University researchers have also said that apart from the drinking water, the Superbug has also been found in streams running across some of the densely populated areas of the Delhi.
Oral-fecal transmission of drug resistant bacteria is a worldwide problem. The standard of hygiene in a habitat determines the rate at which the infection spreads. Indian standards in that sense, as of today, give more scope to the Superbug to spread.
Therefore, it becomes more important than ever for the government to provide better sanitation for people living in and around slum clusters and villages in Delhi-NCR, and for us to doubly stress upon the importance of hygiene for our children and domestic helpers.