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India is Facing a Pandemic of Antibiotics-Resistant Superbugs

Doctors at the 1,000-bed non-profit Kasturba Hospital in Maharashtra, in western India, are battling a wave of antibiotic-resistant “superbug infections.” This happens as bacteria evolve over time and develop a resistance to the medications designed to combat them and treat the diseases they cause

Doctors at the 1,000-bed non-profit Kasturba Hospital in Maharashtra, in western India, are battling a wave of antibiotic-resistant “superbug infections.”

This happens as bacteria evolve over time and develop a resistance to the medications designed to combat them and treat the diseases they cause.

According to a report from 2019, 1.2 million deaths globally were attributed to bacteria that were resistant to the treatments used to eradicate them. The worst pandemic is now unfolding in India as more and more patients are being admitted to hospitals.

One of the nations most affected by what medical professionals refer to as “antimicrobial resistance” is India, where antibiotic-resistant neonatal infections alone claim the lives of up to 60,000 babies annually. An alarming picture of how things are getting worse is painted in a recent government report.

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In tests conducted at Kasturba Hospital to determine which antibiotic would be most efficient in combating five major bacterial pathogens, it was discovered that several key medications were barely effective.

In tests conducted at Kasturba Hospital to determine which antibiotic would be most efficient in combating five major bacterial pathogens, it was discovered that several key medications were barely effective.

The pathogens include E. coli (Escherichia coli), commonly found in the intestines of animals and humans after having eaten contaminated food; and Klebsiella pneumoniae, which can cause pneumonia by infecting the lungs and blood; and meningitis by cutting into the skin and the lining of the brain. Lastly, Staphylococcus aureus is a food-borne bacteria that can be transmitted through aerosols or air droplets.

Doctors discovered that the effectiveness of several common antibiotics in treating illnesses brought on by these pathogens was less than 15%. The multidrug-resistant pathogen Acinetobacter baumannii, which targets patients in critical care units who are on life support, has emerged, and this is what is most alarming.

Dr SP Kalantri, medical superintendent of the hospital, said that since almost the majority of their patients cannot afford the more expensive drugs, when they develop ventilator-associated pneumonia in the ICU, they are at a higher risk of dying.

According to a recent report by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), resistance to the powerful antibiotic class known as carbapenems, which destroys a variety of bacteria, has increased by up to 10% in just a year. Every year, information on antibiotic resistance is gathered by the report from up to 30 public and commercial hospitals.

A scientist at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) as well as a lead author of the study, Dr. Kamini Walia, said that this is concerning since sepsis [a condition that can be fatal] can be effectively treated with it, and for seriously ill patients in intensive care units, it is occasionally used as a first line of treatment in hospitals.

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According to the ICMR analysis, the situation is so dire that only 43% of the pneumonia infections caused by one pathogen in India might be treated with first-line antibiotics in 2021, down from 65% in 2016.

According to the ICMR analysis, the situation is so dire that only 43% of the pneumonia infections caused by one pathogen in India might be treated with first-line antibiotics in 2021, down from 65% in 2016.

According to Saswati Sinha, a critical care expert at AMRI Hospital in Kolkata, India, 6 out of 10 patients in her intensive care unit have infections that are resistant to treatment. She stated that the situation is quite concerning and they have reached a point where there aren’t many options available for treating some of these people.

Doctors at Kasturba Hospital claim that antibiotic resistance is common, especially among outpatients from rural areas and small towns who have conditions including pneumonia and urinary tract infections.
However, doctors find it challenging to obtain details of their prior exposure to antibiotics because the majority of them don’t carry prescriptions and can’t remember the medications they were administered.

Dr Kalantri said that the situation is desperate, and desperate measures call for ordering more and more antibiotics, which is likely to result in more harm than benefits.

On the other hand, public health experts think many doctors in India give out antibiotics carelessly.

For instance, viral infections like the flu or the common cold cannot be treated by antibiotics. Antibiotics are frequently given to patients with malaria and dengue fever, both of which are viral infections brought on by one-celled parasites. Despite their limited usefulness, antibiotics are still often recommended for upper respiratory infections and diarrheal illnesses.

Patients received antibiotic treatment during the chaotic management of COVID-19, which led to further negative side effects. Over 50% of COVID-19 patients who developed drug-resistant illnesses died, according to an ICMR study conducted last year on 17,534 patients in Indian hospitals.

Yet 75% of all prescriptions written in India’s hospitals are for broad-spectrum antibiotics, which, according to research, should only be used to treat the most severe, difficult-to-treat bacterial illnesses.

However, doctors are not solely to blame. According to Dr. Kalantri, doctors are pressed for time in huge, busy public hospitals as they try to examine patients, diagnose their ailments, differentiate between bacterial and viral diseases, and design treatment plans.

Hospital infections are another factor. Because doctors do not want to lose a patient to infection, medicines are frequently given to patients to make up for poor hygiene and sanitation.

In order to combat the growing threat of superbugs, experts say India needs to increase investment in diagnostic labs, strengthen them, produce more infectious disease doctors, lower hospital infections, and train doctors on how to use antibiotics based on testing. Otherwise, Dr. Walia warns that antibiotic resistance has the potential to emerge as a pandemic in the near future.

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