India rejects UK scientists' 'superbug' claim

By Geeta Pandey
BBC News, Delhi

Image caption,
NDM-1 has been found in E.coli bacteria

India has rejected a claim by British scientists that a new superbug, resistant to even the most powerful antibiotics, has entered UK from India.

The health ministry said it was unfair to link the bug to India and officials described it as "malicious propaganda".

Several Indian MPs raised the issue in parliament, calling it a conspiracy.

Scientists say patients who went to India and Pakistan for treatments such as cosmetic surgery have come back with bacteria that make NDM-1 enzyme.

Health experts say NDM-1 can exist inside different bacteria, like E.coli, and it makes them resistant to most antibiotics.

About 50 cases have been identified in the UK so far, but scientists said it could spread globally, medical publication Lancet Infectious Diseases said.

The Indian health ministry has described the report as "sensational".

An official told the BBC it was "unfair" to link the bug to India and create a scare.

The "plasmid", associated with drug resistance to antibiotics, is present "in the environment, may be in the intestines of humans and animals universally", the health ministry said in a press release.

'Wrong propaganda'

Officials said a person could become infected with the drug-resistant bacteria anywhere in the world and it was "preventable by sound infection-prevention strategies which are followed in any good hospital".

"We strongly refute the naming of this enzyme as New Delhi metallo beta lactamase," the ministry said.

"We also refute that hospitals in India are not safe for treatment, including medical tourism," it added.

The issue was also raised in India's parliament, with angry MPs questioning the Lancet study, saying it was funded by pharmaceutical multi-national companies.

"When India is emerging as a medical tourism destination, this type of news is unfortunate and may be a sinister design of multi-national companies," MP SS Ahluwalia of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party said.

Congress party's Jayanthi Natarajan said the report of the superbug was a "wrong propaganda against the country".

Indian medical tourism industry is growing rapidly and is estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

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