Deadly Delhi superbug poses risk to antibiotic treatment worldwide

An estimated 500,000 people in Delhi are carrying bacteria highly resistant to antibiotics acquired from drinking water, say researchers.

Tests on drains and public taps across the city found high levels of contamination with bacteria carrying the NDM 1 gene (New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase) which confers resistance to almost all known antibiotics.

The discovery highlights the global threat from the spread of untreatable superbugs. An estimated 25,000 people die each year in the European Union from antibiotic resistant bacterial infections. The numbers affected beyond the EU are not known.

Researchers from Cardiff University tested water samples from drains and public taps in Delhi. They found 4 per cent of drinking water samples and 30 per cent of drain samples contaminated with the NDM 1 gene. Further tests showed the gene had spread to bacteria causing cholera and dysentery making them potentially untreatable.

Mark Toleman, an author of the study published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases, said: "Half a million people in New Delhi are carrying NDM 1 bacteria as normal gut flora.

"If we let it go, in the next two or three years we will see the loss of antibiotics in India. We will rapidly get to the stage where those bacteria are untreatable."

Separate research showed that more than 80 per cent of travellers returning from India to Europe carried the NDM gene in their gut. NDM confers resistance to the most powerful antibiotics – carbapanems.

Bacteria testing positive for NDM 1 genes had been isolated from 70 patients in the UK, according to the Health Protection Agency, but there had been no cases of onward transmission.

Dr Toleman said the situation in India and the rest of south-east Asia, which was the largest reservoir of NDM containing bacteria, posed a threat to the world, and international efforts were needed to improve sanitation.

He said the Indian government had expressed concern, but its hidden attitude was one of denial. Researchers investigating contamination of the water supply had been harassed.

At a briefing organised by the World Health Organisation, scientists warned that reckless use of antibiotics was in danger of returning the world to a pre-antibiotic era where infections did not respond to treatment.

David Heymann, chairman of the UK Health Protection Agency said that within two years of Penicillin being discovered, 11 per cent of strains of staphylococcus aureus were resistant and by the late 1990s over 90 per cent of hospital strains were resistant.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

    £15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

    Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

    £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

    Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

    £16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

    Day In a Page

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map
    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
    Paris Fashion Week

    Paris Fashion Week

    Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
    A year of the caliphate:

    Isis, a year of the caliphate

    Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
    Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

    Marks and Spencer

    Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
    'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

    'We haven't invaded France'

    Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
    Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

    Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

    The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
    7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

    Remembering 7/7 ten years on

    Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
    Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

    They’re here to help

    We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
    What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

    What exactly does 'one' mean?

    Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue