CHENNAI: Alarmed by the prediction that resistance to antibiotics will become the leading cause of death, overtaking cancer, in India in the next 10 years, a team of international experts including those from IIT-Madras is planning to monitor antibiotic residues (AR) in water bodies and farmlands.
According to research presented at an international conference in IIT-M on Monday, close to 58,000 newborn deaths across India were attributable to resistance to antibiotics. Scientists gathered at the conference suggested it was high time India responded to this as even third degree antibiotics (Collistin), banned in the 1970s for their toxicity, were becoming inefficient.
The IIT-M along with top research institutes from eight countries, including Virginia Tech, will be setting up a project named Halting Environmental Antibiotic Resistance Dissemination (HEARD) to study the prevalence and impact of AR. “As part of this project, the team stationed in Chennai will monitor antibiotic residue levels in water bodies and agricultural fields with the help of state agencies for a period of two years,” said professor Indumathi Nambi from IIT-M.
She said during the initial phase, the team will work with Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage, Metrowater and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board in preparing a database. “In Chennai, focus would be on areas surrounding Pallikaranai marsh and Velachery where the team spotted excess antibiotic residue levels in treated or inappropriately treated water bodies during initial studies,” she said.
Peter Vikesland from Virginia Tech said that along with Chennai, similar sampling would be conducted in several countries from several parts of the world, including Sweden, Switzerland and China, as present data is hard to compare.
“Experts will come from Virginia Tech to IIT-M for sampling works supporting a great deal of knowledge-transition from both ends,” he added.
A standard protocol on how to go about this phenomenon will be developed based on cross-referring this database, said experts who participated in the international conference.
Colistin, an old, cheap and rarely used antibiotic for humans - since it is toxic - is being added to animal feed in countries like China to produce cheaper pork and other meats
A recent Lancet report said scientists discovered colistin-resistant E coli in 21 per cent of slaughtered pigs in China
They found isolates in 15 per cent of meat sold from those animals in retail sites. They even detected resistant E coli in more than 1 per cent of hospitalised patients
The bacteria don’t just pass on resistance to their “children”; they can pass it among one another and to completely different strains of bacteria
Resistance is natural
Penicillin-resistant staphylococcus was detected in 1940, a few years before penicillin was mass produced
Tetracycline introduced in 1950; resistant shigella identified within a decade
Erythromycin came in in 1953; resistant streptococcus in 1968
Gentamicin developed in 1967, resistance appeared in 1979
Vancomycin developed in 1972; resistance in 1988
Imipenem released in 1985; resistance in 1998
Did you know?
Discovery of prontosil, the first synthetic modern antibiotic, fetched Gerhard Domagk a Nobel Prize in 1939
Alexander Fleming, Ernst Boris Chain and Howard Walter Florey got Nobel in 1945 for discovering penicillin
What is antibiotic resitance?
Disease-causing bacteria that have developed a resistance to commonly used antibiotics for treatment. As existing drugs became less effective, treatment of infectious diseases have become more difficult.
What do recent studies reveal?
Antibiotic residues were detected in water bodies and wastewater which were capable of causing severe health hazard even at low concentrations. This highlights the incidence of increasing rise of drug-resistant bacteria leading to thousands of deaths every year.