Antibiotic apocalypse

Monday, August 12, 2013

On a recent trip to India, Shyla Jehangir, a paediatrician practising in the UK, was startled when she read a prescription her sister had recently been given for a cough and cold. She told me she recovered quickly but that was hardly surprising the antibiotics her doctor had prescribed were strong enough to cure Lazarus! says Jehangir, referring to the Biblical character supposed to have been miraculously revived from the dead by Jesus Christ.

This is just one instance of a situation, public health researchers and doctors agree, that is being routinely played out across India over-prescription of antibiotics, especially for minor ailments. Years of over-prescription is one of the principal factors contributing to what is now recognised globally as a public health crisis the rise of bacterial infections that no longer respond to the antibiotics that we have. In India, the issue of infections caused by multi-drug resistant bacteria, or “superbugs”, came to the spotlight with the discovery of NDM-1, or New Delhi metallo beta lactamase-1, so named because it was found in a Swedish patient who had been to India in 2009.

While naming the bacteria after New Delhi caused a political furore, with theories doing the rounds that this was done to malign Indias medical tourism industry, the factors that led to such a situation remain largely unaddressed, even today.

Source: Business Standard (link opens in a new window)

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