A British television channel has claimed that the New Delhi metallo-B- lactamese (NDM-1) bacteria could be widespread in Indian cities.

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 The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal that highlighted the presence of superbugs in India — said that of the 100 samples collected from sewers across Delhi, NDM-1 bacteria was detected in 11 samples. “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.”

“It suggests NDM is spread all over Delhi and people are carrying (these bacteria) as part of their normal flora,” Professor Walsh of the University of Cardiff said. Evidence that the superbug was present outside hospitals means that efforts to contain it — which have been partially successful for bugs like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) — may fail. However hard hospitals try to contain infections, they will be continually reintroduced from people bringing the infection into the hospital, the nine-minute news clip said.

The Channel 4 investigation has also revealed that 64 cases of the superbug have been reported in the United Kingdom and there have been five superbug-related deaths. Since it was first identified in 2007, patients infected with the bacteria have been found in 16 countries worldwide. The bacteria, which has been linked to patients treated in hospitals in the Indian sub-continent, is resistant to nearly all antibiotics.

“The number of cases we have seen in the U.K. is quite small,'' David Livermore, director of Antibiotic Resistance Monitoring & Reference Laboratory at the Health Protection Agency in London said in the news clip. “But we are importing bacteria with this type of resistance particularly from the Indian sub-continent, and when you look at population flows, it looks likely we will continue to import more and more. The fear is that they will get traction within U.K. hospitals and will spread from patient to patient,” Dr. Livermore added.

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.

Channel 4 also said that collaboration between Indian and British scientists has been halted after direct intervention by Indian health authorities. None of the scientists of the earlier study, the TV channel contacted in India, spoke except Jayanta Sarma, who has returned to the the U.K. to work for the National Health Service in Northumberland. He said: “I am ashamed of the Indian government's reaction.”

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