Infected with ‘superbugs’ in birth facilities within 72 hours of being born, thousands of Indian babies are dying due to an ‘alarming degree’ of drug resistance, a major study has found. The researchers found that nearly 26 per cent of babies with sepsis died, as multi drug resistance made the ailment untreatable.
The findings, published in the journal, The Lancet , found that despite early detection and appropriate medical attention, neonates with sepsis and pneumonia (both common ailments in newborns) died, because none of the drugs worked. The lead author of the study, Dr. Vinod Paul, chief of pediatrics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), said this was a manifestation of drug resistant bacteria in the Indian population.
Dr. Paul’s team is working on models to prevent hospital-acquired infections soon after birth, and rapid diagnostics.
“We are now staring at overwhelming evidence of rampant antibiotic resistance, across all ages, all over the country. This worrying epidemic-like situation is a result of overuse of antibiotics in humans, agriculture and livestock,” Dr. Paul said.
The DeNIS study (Delhi Neonatal Infection) followed a group of 88,636 newborn infants for 3 years starting July 2011. The doctors tracked babies born in three of Delhi’s largest hospitals- AIIMS, Safdarjung Hospital and Maulana Azad Medical College -as they were subsequently admitted to the Intensive Care Units.
Out of over 88,000 children, 13,530 were ‘enrolled’ in the study – that is, admitted to the ICU.
Three ‘superbugs’ in particular – Klebsiella, Acinetobacter , and E. coli – were associated with more than half (53 per cent) of the infections. Out of this 1,934 babies (14 per cent) were resistant to drugs and 496 babies (26 per cent) died due to causes attributable to drug resistance and formerly curable infections.
Multi drug resistance was the highest with Acinetobacter in 181 cases, a staggering 82 per cent. Resistance to Klebsiella was found in 54 per cent and E. coli in 38 per cent.
Study results grim Ramanan Laxminarayan, lecturer at Princeton University and Director, Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, U.S., said, “The study results show that we are exposing newborns to deadly infections even within 72 hours of their being born. Over 80 per cent of Acinetobacter infections were multi drug resistant, confirming a pan-resistant, untreatable problem of high mortality in our neonatal [newborn] nurseries. We are at a breaking point and India needs to clean up its birthing facilities.”
Sepsis or meningitis in newborns accounted for 4,21,000 deaths, or about 16 per cent in the category in 2013. Estimates indicate that 56,524 newborn babies die each year from resistance to first line antibiotics. Professor Laxminarayan said the study results highlighted the big threat to efforts aimed at containing Infant Mortality Rates.