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'Superbug' bacteria found in New Delhi
Fri, 08 Apr 2011 15:20:57 GMT
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Bacteria under electron microscope imagery
A new strain of bacteria which is resistant to almost all antibiotics has been found in drinking water and water pools outside the Indian capital city of New Delhi.

"The fact that this [superbug] has emerged is worrisome, but forecasting what it will do is very difficult," said Guenael Rodier, director of communicable diseases at the World Health Organization (WHO).

The new drug-resistance gene, NDM-1 -- which has been named after New Delhi -- is widely circulating in the environment and could potentially spread to the rest of the world, experts noted.

"In India, this transmission represents a serious problem -- 650 million citizens do not have access to a flush toilet and even more probably do not have access to clean water," the authors of the report have stated.

New Delhi's serious lack of proper sanitation and limited access to clean water supplies, along with over-use of antibacterial medications and soaps exacerbate the bacteria's drug resistance.

A researcher claimed that given its spread through New Delhi's water supply about half a million people are carrying this bacterial strain in their gut. Indian officials, however, dismiss the claim after randomly sampling about 2,000 women all of whom showed no signs of the infection.

"The potential for wider international spread ... is real and should not be ignored," said microbiologist Mohd Shahid of India's Aligarh Muslim University.

Since it was first identified in 2008, the bacteria strain has popped up in a number of countries, including the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada and Sweden.

Researchers believe the superbug could be spread by foreigners visiting India.

Bacteria with the NDM-1 gene can only be treated with highly toxic and expensive antibiotics, yet the gene can be transferred between various other types of bacteria, including those that cause cholera and dysentery.

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