‘Superbug scare meant to hit Indian medical tourism’

December 4th, 2011 - 6:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Agra, Dec 4 (IANS) The scare abroad over the superbug or NDM-1 (New Delhi Metallo beta lactamase) last year was deliberately created to tarnish India’s image as a medical tourism destination, says V.M. Katoch, director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

“A hype to create some kind of a scare about superbug theory obviously helps some countries,” Katoch, who is also secretary in the department of health research, told IANS.

He said there was nothing unusual. “The superbug has been known for years. The scare obviously suited some interest groups abroad. We have always stressed greater precautions and care in levels of hygiene and sanitary conditions in our hospitals.”

Katoch was in Agra to attend a conference on advances in molecular techniques and their application in health and diseases.
The conference was jointly organised by the Indian National Science Academy (INSA) and nature, life sciences department of Agra College and the National JALMA Institute for Leprosy and Other Mycobacterial Diseases, Agra.

Katoch did not see any new threat or condition to raise an alarm on the superbug issue.

“Health facilities and treatment in India are fairly good and affordable and there has been a discernible interest in citizens of several countries to take advantage of available medical advances in our country,” he added.

The director general of ICMR informed the conference that work on the malaria vaccine was in an advanced stage of trial.

In October, Delhi Health Minister A.K. Walia downplayed the threat of the superbug in the capital and said the prevalence of the infection was “very low” and could not be termed “alarming”.

“There is a very low prevalence of NDM-1 infection which exists as confirmed in tests conducted in the ICUs of a number of hospitals. It is between the range of 0.04 percent to 0.08 percent which cannot be stated as alarming,” Walia said.

Reports from a British Medical journal had earlier alleged the presence of a bacteria with multi-drug resistant gene NDM-1 that was resistant to almost all antibiotics.

The journal later reported in a study that the NDM-1 was found in Delhi’s sewage and drinking water. Scientists feared the spread of the enzyme worldwide due to its high antibiotic resistance, to fight which nothing has been developed so far.

While the health ministry has not admitted on the impact of the NDM-1 on public health, it has been mulling over an antibiotic policy that will also address the issue of hospital-acquired infections (HAI) in the country.

Officials from the health ministry had said the naming of the enzyme after ‘New Delhi’ was an attempt to malign India as the superbug was found in many countries, not just India.

(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at brij.k@ians.in)

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