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New Antibiotics-Resistant Bacteria Discovered in India Public Water Supply

The presence of disease-causing bacteria carrying the NDM-1 gene, which grants resistance to antibiotics, has been detected in the drinking water supply of New Delhi. A team led by Cardiff University has found new strains of resistant bacteria in the Indian capital, including those responsible for cholera and dysentery. This is the first evidence of the environmental spread of NDM-1, as it had previously only been found in hospitals.

The scientists are urging health authorities worldwide to take urgent action in order to address the new strains and prevent their global spread. The researchers from Cardiff also emphasize the importance of preventative measures such as improved sanitation and appropriate drinking water, as they offer benefits in various aspects.

The NDM-1 gene, which makes bacteria resistant to a wide range of antibiotics, was first identified by scientists from Cardiff University. Furthermore, this gene is carried on mobile DNA called plasmids, which can also carry up to 13 other antibiotic resistance genes. While most patients with the bacteria have recently been hospitalized in India, there have been cases without recent hospital treatment, prompting the team to test the broader environment.

Samples were collected in New Delhi from public water taps and areas where waste seepage occurs, such as water pools in the street. Resistant bacteria were found in 4% of the water supplies and 30% of the seepage sites. The researchers identified 11 new species of bacteria carrying the NDM-1 gene, including strains responsible for cholera and dysentery. Antibiotics are commonly used to reduce the excretion of bacteria in cholera patients and to minimize the duration and severity of dysentery. It is concerning that the identified Shigella isolate, which can cause dysentery, is resistant to all appropriate antibiotics.

Professor Tim Walsh, the study leader from Cardiff University's School of Medicine, expressed deep concern about these findings. Resistant bacteria were found in public water used for drinking, washing, and food preparation, as well as in pools and rivulets in densely populated areas where children play. The spread of resistance to cholera and a potentially untreatable strain of dysentery is particularly alarming.

A recent report from the United Nations revealed that 650 million Indian citizens lack access to flush toilets, and even more may not have access to clean water. The sewage system in New Delhi itself is reportedly inadequate for the city's population. The research team also believes that the temperatures and monsoon flooding in New Delhi create an ideal environment for the spread of NDM-1.

Professor Walsh emphasized the urgency of this public health issue. Similar environmental studies are needed in cities across India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh to determine the prevalence of resistant bacteria. Taking action is crucial if we want to maintain our ability to treat severe infections in vulnerable patients.

Furthermore, the environmental spread of these bacteria is also an international concern. Patients carrying NDM-1 have been identified in the UK and Europe, despite not having visited hospitals in India. The research team at Cardiff University is willing to offer guidance to the World Health Organization and health authorities in Asia regarding the necessary steps to be taken.


Source: ScienceDaily