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Antibiotic-resistant bacteria causing epidemic of infant deaths in India may spread globally

Antibiotic resistance

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(NaturalNews) An antibiotic-resistant "superbug" epidemic which is killing thousands of newborns in India may prove to have a global impact.

India's infant mortality rate is staggering, accounting for nearly a third of the yearly world total. Of the 800,000 infant deaths per year in the country, around 58,000 are caused by antibiotic-resistant infections.

A number of factors have contributed to the epidemic -- poor sanitation, crowded hospitals and overuse of antibiotics are among them. Although antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains are a growing problem in every part of the world, the situation in India is rapidly spiraling out of control.

It's a vicious cycle -- because infections are so prevalent among newborns in India, antibiotics are routinely and indiscriminately administered to them at birth. This overuse of antibiotics in turn leads to the evolution of bacteria which are immune to their effects.

The occurrence of bacterial infection in India is among the highest in the world, and Indians take more antibiotics per capita than anyone else. Antibiotics are freely sold over the counter in India, and despite efforts to curb their overuse, experts concede that a large percentage of bacterial strains in the country are now resistant to nearly all drugs.

While some claim that drug-resistant strains in India are mostly confined to hospitals, others are concerned that the bacteria are finding their way into the environment and, in many cases, are being passed from mothers to infants before they are born.

Hospitals are certainly a major breeding ground for superbugs -- particularly in India, where overcrowded facilities and less-than-ideal sanitary conditions exacerbate the problem.

And the epidemic is not confined within India's borders.

The New York Times quotes Dr. Timothy R. Walsh, microbiology professor at Cardiff University:

India's dreadful sanitation, uncontrolled use of antibiotics and overcrowding coupled with a complete lack of monitoring the problem has created a tsunami of antibiotic resistance that is reaching just about every country in the world.

"Superbugs" of Indian origin have already been detected in several countries -- including the U.S.

NDM1 (New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1) is an enzyme that has been found in many of these superbugs, the origin of which is evident in the name.

Experts have been warning us for years that widespread use of antibiotics would lead to such scenarios, and the evidence indicates that these fears were not overstated.

The over-prescription of antibiotics in many countries -- including the U.S. -- is alarmingly widespread. Other factors, such as the overuse of antibiotics in beef, pork and poultry, are contributing to a global epidemic, but the situation in developing countries is significantly worse.

For instance, farmers in India commonly use antibiotics in poultry production which have been banned in the U.S.

These types of agricultural practices in India, along with the large amounts of untreated human waste that find their way into water supplies, have created an environment where drug-resistant bacteria are encouraged to breed -- totally independent of the superbug factories which Indian hospitals have become.

Although efforts to discourage overuse of antibiotics have had success in Western countries, their use in developing countries is still on the increase. Global antibiotic use increased 36 percent in the decade spanning from 2000 to 2010.

Unless the problem is addressed on a global scale, we are all in danger of finding ourselves in the grips of an unmanageable epidemic. 23,000 people die each year already from resistant bacteria in the United States alone.

Antibiotics are often life-savers, but their overuse may ultimately lead to them becoming nearly useless in the fight against infections.





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