International health experts warn in a new study about a deadly epidemic occurring in India that threatens to expand on a global scale – tens of thousands of Indian babies die annually because of bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
Doctors say that these bacteria lead to antibiotic-resistant infections that often result in death.
The newborns are born with drug-resistant bacteria in their bodies and about 58,000 of them died as a result in 2013. However India is renowned for the highest infant mortality rate in the world – about 800,000 babies die each year in this country (about a third of world’s infant death rate, experts say.)
The two most common causes of death are sepsis and pneumonia. Dr Vinod Paul, lead author of the study, said reducing infant death rate in India was its most important public health priority.
“But if resistant infections keep growing, that progress could slow, stop or even reverse itself. And that would be a disaster for not only India but the entire world,”
Dr Vinod has also said.
Dr Neelam Kler, director of the department of neonatology at one of the most renowned private hospitals in India, said that five years ago there were almost zero infection cases, but nowadays about 100 percent of hospitalized newborns developed multidrug resistant infections.
Researchers say that most of the drug -resistant bacteria now dwell in India’s water, soil, sewage and even in its pregnant women. These bacteria seem to be immune to all types of antibiotics.
Doctors say that although newborns represent the highest risk group, since their immune system is very weak, everybody is at risk. For instance, Uppalapu Shrinivas, one of India’s most appreciated artists, died at the age of 45 three months ago because doctors failed to cure a drug-resistant infection.
Dr. Timothy R. Walsh, a British microbiology expert, said situation in India was like a “tsunami of antibiotic resistance” that would affect the entire planet. Dr Walsh said the situation was due to uncontrolled antibiotic prescriptions, overcrowding, and “dreadful sanitation”.
Indeed several antibiotic-resistant bacteria coming from India were found in countries like the EU, the US, Oman and Japan. It seems that microbiologists were right to warn us for decades against the effects of antibiotic overuse. In September, the US said this situation was a threat to national security.
In India, antibiotic-resistant bacteria multiplied so rapidly because private doctors are poorly trained, although they provide about 90 percent of the health care services.