International health journal Lancet on Friday accused the Indian government of being in denial over the issue of presence of drug-resistant bacteria NDM-1 in the public water system of Delhi and argued that the debate over the naming of the bug should not detract one from the health implications of the findings.
“The research is entirely scientific. If you look at our publication record for the last 10 years you will find that discovering new and emerging mechanisms of resistance is what we have been doing for 10 years,” Mark Toleman, one of the co-authors of the study which claimed to have found the bacteria in Delhi waters, told PTI via e-mail.
“You will also notice that we have done similar studies on isolates from many different countries. Furthermore a responsible response would be to empower Indian scientists to do similar studies.
“Unfortunately the Indian government is in denial and actively suppresses the truth by threatening and abusing their own scientists,” the author said.
Tony Kirby, the magazine’s press officer, reacted to a senior Health Ministry official’s claim that the researchers transferred the samples for the study illegally by saying that “we broke no Indian laws whatsoever”.
“The debate over naming should not detract from the importance of the findings in Walsh and colleagues’ paper and the implications that they might have for human health.
“We recognise that a discussion continues about the appropriateness of naming micro-organisms, enzymes, genes, and their associated diseases with an identifier that some observers may feel stigmatises a place or a people,” he said.
In an official reaction he said, this important and sensitive issue is being examined by editors and may be discussed.
“For now, naming is the responsibility of the authors of the paper, and in the case of NDM-1 we are continuing to use a name first published in 2008, two years before its previous appearance in The Lancet Infectious Diseases,” he said.
Mr. Toleman said that the bacteria was named New Delhi-beta-lactamase first in an American journal called Antibiotic Agents and Chemotherapy in 2009 and the naming had nothing whatever to do with the Lancet.
“In fact our original paper was rejected by the Lancet. Furthermore NDM-1 is the correct name and follows the naming of most genes of this type. Others are named SPM-1 for Sao Paulo metallo-b-lactamase, SIM for Seoul imipenemase in Korea, VIM for Veronna imipenemase in Italy, GIM for Germany imipenemase and DIM for Dutch imipenemase,” he said.
The Indian government had come out strongly against a report on presence of a drug resistant bacteria in the public water system of the capital saying the motives behind it were not “scientific” and the government will respond in an appropriate forum.
“Just to keep the heat on a country or a region... is not scientific motive for a study,” Secretary Department of Health Research V.M. Katoch told reporters in New Delhi.
“Enough is enough, scientifically we will respond to it in an appropriate forum,” Dr. Katoch, who is also the Director of Indian Council of Medical research said.
India had earlier protested against the naming of the bug after its capital, saying the research was not supported by scientific data.
Director-General of Health Services R.K. Srivastava said that that following the publication of the report in August last year, the government had written to the editor of the Lancet asking him to publish a letter refuting the theory, but the magazine had refused to publish it.