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Two new (and frightening) articles on anti-biotic resistance (with one of them featuring r.i.c.e. research)

Blog Post2 min read, along with IndiaSpend,  had an article on anti-biotic resistance in India. We quote from the article:

With gut bacteria, the chances of that happening may increase when you take antibiotics, because bacteria, like every species, evolve to survive. “The NDM-1 gene has found its way to over 40 species of different bacteria, which is unprecedented in antibiotic resistance,” said Walsh.

Given the appalling state of sanitation in India, it is not surprising that the majority of adult Indians carry highly resistant bacteria in their gut. Walsh said his team, in 2013, found that 90% of adults in south Pakistan carried a gene that made common bacteria that live in the intestines of healthy people resistant to potent antibiotics.

“We believe the same statistics apply to northern and urban India,” Walsh said. “In contrast, only 10% of adults in the Queens area of New York carry bacteria bearing the same gene.”

All these adult Indians could contribute to the evolution of superbugs, if they were to abuse antibiotics. It appears Indians are doing just that. The country is not yet a hotbed of super-resistant pathogens, but if NDM-1 transfers to highly pathogenic bacteria, it could happen very soon.

At India’s largest public hospital, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, doctors are already experiencing the era of antibiotic resistance. They will tell you how bacteria causing pneumonia in intensive care unit patients are much less responsive to antibiotics today than they were a decade ago.

Another article, in the New York Times, was specifically about the threats to new born infants from anti-biotic resistance. It quoted r.i.c.e. research on sanitation and anti-biotic resistance.

Bacteria spread easily in India, experts say, because half of Indians defecate outdoors, and much of the sewage generated by those who do use toilets is untreated. As a result, Indians have among the highest rates of bacterial infections in the world and collectively take more antibiotics, which are sold over the counter here, than any other nationality. A recent study found that Indian children living in places where people are less likely to use a toilet tend to get diarrhea and be given antibiotics more often than those in places with more toilet use. On Oct. 2, the Indian government began a campaign to clean the country and build toilets, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi publicly sweeping a Delhi neighborhood. But the task is monumental.


r.i.c.e. is a non-profit research organization focused on health and well-being in India. Our core focus is on children in rural north India. Our research studies health care at the start of life, sanitation, air pollution, maternal health, social inequality, and other dimensions of population-level social wellbeing.

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