The chlorination carried out for making water safe for drinking inactivates sensitive and drug resistant bacteria alike, the government said.

Strongly refuting the claims that New Delhi metallo-Beta lactamase –I (NDM-1) bacteria or ‘superbug' was detected in the city's environment, including water and sewerage, the government on Thursday said there was no evidence to suggest that it was a threat to public health.

The chlorination carried out for making water safe for drinking inactivates sensitive and drug resistant bacteria alike, the government said.

“The study is unsupported by any clinical or epidemiological evidence and does not highlight the unstable character of the isolates,” V.M. Katoch, Director-General of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) told reporters here in response to an article on “Dissemination of NDM-1 positive bacteria in the New Delhi environment and its implication for human health: an environmental point relevance” published in the latest edition of the British medical journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

“Some people want to keep the heat on India,” he added.

“The NDM-1 bacteria has been in environment for a long time and are certainly not a threat to public,” R.K. Srivastava, Director-General of Health Services (DGHS) said.

“The environmental presence of NFM-1 gene carrying bacteria is not a significant finding since there is no clinical or epidemiological linkage to the finding . The fact that patients respond well to medical and post surgical antibiotic indicates that NDM-1 is not a significant problem in the country,” he said.

The article is based on an independent research carried out by Tom Clarke, science correspondent of Channel 4, along with Timothy Walsh — one of the authors of the controversial article in published the journal that highlighted the presence of superbugs in India. The NDM-1 producing bacteria were found in 51 out of 171 samples taken from water pools and two out of 50 water samples in the city. The study provides a crude snapshot of the presence of the bacteria outside hospitals, but it suggests NDM-1 in gut bacteria like Escherichia coli may be widespread among people in Indian cities and perhaps elsewhere, the paper said.

The threat is from bacteria carrying a type of antibiotic-resistance, called NDM-1 enzyme, which has been found in common bacteria like E.coli, a cause of routine infections after surgery or procedures like kidney dialysis. Dr. Srivastava said the virus becomes 10,000 times less stable if the temperature goes beyond 25 degrees Celsius and further less at temperatures beyond 37 degrees Celsius.

Dr. Katoch said a study carried out by Sir Ganga Ram Hospital — which follows an effective anti-biotic policy — shows that E.coli isolated from the gut of a large randomly selected sample of pregnant women did not show any carbapenem resistant E.coli in the stool samples, indicating no presence of NDM-1. The carbapenem antibiotic is not used in the treatment for cholera and shigella dystentry as these cases respond to commonly used antibiotics.

The publication itself mentions that NDM-1 is not a stable character in most of the isolates, indicating that any time it can revert back to a sensitive state. Carbapenem resistance develops mainly in patients who are on carbapenem therapy. This therapy is sparingly used under the supervision of doctor, Dr. Katoch explained.

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