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Drug-resistant bacteria on the rampage, says expert

Special Correspondent
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Indiscriminate use of antibiotics the reason

Camilla Rodrigues, chairperson of the Infection Control Committee of Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai, delivering a lecture in Chennai on Sunday.Photo: S.R. Raghunathan
Camilla Rodrigues, chairperson of the Infection Control Committee of Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai, delivering a lecture in Chennai on Sunday.Photo: S.R. Raghunathan

Antibiotics, once hailed as the bedrock of modern medicine, may not work on infections in the next ten years as their indiscriminate use had spawned drug resistant bacteria, Camilla Rodrigues, chairperson of the Infection Control Committee of Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai said on Sunday.

Delivering the “XXIInd Dr. M.S. Ramakrishnan Memorial Endowment Oration” under the auspices of The CHILDS Trust Medical Research Foundation, Dr. Rodrigues said antibiotic resistance was like the elephant in the room that was impossible to overlook.

Though bacterial resistance to common antibiotics was a world-wide concern, the magnitude of the problem was much more in India across the three main classes of superbugs — Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), Enterobacteriaceae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Acinetobact.

During the course of her oration, Dr. Rodrigues also overturned several entrenched notions. For one, unlike what many medical practitioners would like to believe, stopping the use of antibiotics would not make the resistant bacteria go away. Another pertained to the practice of treating ICUs like fortresses from which even family members were barred. “A family member is less likely to propagate cross-transmission than doctors or nurses who interact with all the patients,” she said.

The bleak future she painted prompted questions about what steps clinicians could take to counter the problem. Apparently, there was nothing much they could do.

“I don’t see a future for antibiotics. Perhaps what clinicians can do is to delay the onset of resistance by revisiting the duration of course and keeping it to five days,” she said.

The focus needs to be directed at improving public sanitation conditions as large amounts of consumed antibiotics are excreted by the human body, making sewers happy breeding grounds for bacterial organisms to churn out superbugs, the microbiologist said.

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