drug resistant superbug e coli
drug resistant superbug e coliReuters

While the United Nations made a historic pledge to counter drug-resistant superbugs by urging all nations to developing national plans and improve monitoring, reports suggest that India may be more vulnerable than others in the fight.

The associated dangers of spreading of drug-resistant superbugs is that doctors will no longer be able to ward off simple infections as antibiotics and antifungal medicines will be rendered ineffective due to the spread of infections by pathogens that defy antimicrobial medicines.

Common infections such as pneumonia, gonorrhoea, and post-operative infections, as well as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, are becoming increasingly hard to treat because of antimicrobial resistance.

"Antimicrobial resistance poses a fundamental threat to human health, development and security," Margaret Chan, director general of World Health Organization, the global health arm of the United Nations was quoted as saying.

Multiple research studies suggest that India is most vulnerable to the superbugs. For instance, research suggests that the superbug - New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase-1 (NDM-1) originating from India has already spread to more than 70 countries.

NDM-1 found in carriers such as bacteria– E coli and Klebsiella are resistant to the latest generation of antibiotics– Carbapenem in some countries.

Cardiff University scientists also found that in Delhi, the NDM-1 gene had already spread to the bacteria that cause cholera and dysentery in India, making it impossible to treat people, including children, carrying the superbug.

Even more startling were reports first published in The Lancet that suggested that despite early detection and appropriate medical attention, thousand of babies with sepsis and pneumonia (both common ailments in newborns) died within 72 hours of being born.

Drug-resistant pathogens have spread because of overuse and misuse of antibiotics. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) had also asked all doctors to stop prescribing antibiotics for adults suffering from common cold, bronchitis, sore throat or sinus infections earlier this year.

However, a report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism suggested that pharmaceutical pollution in India, China and other countries is one of the underlying causes for spread of antibiotic resistant diseases. The report also singles out pharmaceutical companies that are complicit in spreading infections through case studies based out of India and China.

India must take the situation seriously, as grim estimates such as one independent review last year by Professor Jim O'Neill suggests that if no action is taken, antimicrobial resistance will kill 10 million people worldwide every year -- more than cancer.