Superbugs get tough, 25% patients in Mumbai resistant to strong antibiotics

Here’s an indication that superbugs microorganisms that can’t be killed easily by medicines are gaining strength in Mumbai. Almost 25% of patients tested showed resistance to one of the high-potency antibiotics called fluoroquinolones.

About 3% of 1,800 kids (under 15) who are supposed to have limited exposure to bacteria and so suffer less from antibiotic resistance too had organisms resistant to second-generation fluoroquinolones.

SRL Avinash Phadke Laboratory studied samples of over 40,500 patients and found that almost 33% harboured drug-resistant bacteria. Usually, severe drug-resistant microbial infections are limited to hospital settings and affect the weakest, but the study found that many patients acquired the infection in the community.

“Our study shows that drug resistance is common in community and hospital set-ups. It is on the rise and is seen in different types of clinical situations and samples-—be it urinary tract infections or soft tissue injuries,” said Dr Ajay Phadke. 

A doctor from a public hospital said rising AMR means every operation and infection will carry higher risk. “There are no new antibiotics coming up and we are misusing the current medicines,” she said. 

At a time when the World Health Organisation has called antimicrobial resistance one of the biggest health challenges, India finds itself at the centre of this public health emergency. 

In a study published recently in Indian Journal of Medical Research, a peer-reviewed, an indexed journal of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), PGIMER Chandigarh’s doctors announced that more than 70% of isolates of the ‘scoping report on antimicrobial resistance in India (2017)’ more than 70% isolates of Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Acinetobacter baumannii and nearly half of all Pseudomonas aeruginosa were resistant to fluoroquinolones and third generation cephalosporins. India’s TB epidemic is another example of how drug resistance among bacteria can wreak havoc among humans. 

India has high rates of resistance to antimicrobial agents used in humans and food animals, said the PGIMER report. The environment, especially water bodies, has also reported presence of resistant organisms or their genes. A study done in Mumbai six months ago found drug-resistant bacteria, especially typhoid-causing organisms, in eggs collected from 12 places in the city. 

At a global level, AMR has touched scary proportions: about 7 lakh die due to it each year and 10 million more projected to die from it by 2050. It is said that AMR kills more people than cancer and road traffic accidents together. 

The new city study shows that bacteria considered simple (acinetobacter) until 15 years back are now the cause of drug-resistant respiratory tract infection. “We did the AMR study to understand drug resistance patterns in different age groups and infection types in Mumbai,” said Dr Phadke. “The need of the hour is to emphasize on and reinforce hygiene in community settings and strict infection control in all OPD and IPD settings.

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