The term ‘superbug’ refers to strains of bacteria resistant to numerous clinically used antibiotics used to treat a range of diseases. The IVRI studied 111 samples taken from numerous community water sources, of which 53.15 percent displayed the presence of superbugs. “Of the total 111 samples analysed during the research, superbugs were found in 59 samples belonging to two types,” explained Bhoj Raj Singh, head of the IVRI’s epidemiology division. “Type one is carbapenem resistance and enterobacteriaceae which spread through water and food while type two is carbapenem-resistant bacteria which spread via human contact.”
Carbapenems are a group of antibiotics similar to penicillin that have a broad spectrum of activity. They inhibit the production of the bacterial cell wall, thereby inducing cell death. This mechanism usually allows carbapenems to remain effective against numerous disease even where antibiotic resistance is prevalent.
“Carbapenem use has increased as a result of the rising resistance to cephalosporin antibiotics,” noted The British Medical Journal in a 2012 article. However, resistance to them is growing. As such, as noted by Therapeutic Advances in Infectious Disease, “carbapenem resistance…is an ongoing public-health problem of global dimensions. This type of antimicrobial resistance…is spreading rapidly causing serious outbreaks and dramatically limiting treatment options.”
Indeed, the presence of superbugs in segments of Bareilly’s water supply is cause for concern and adds impetus to efforts to address antimicrobial resistance. “Antimicrobial resistance is an emergency and the world has to work in unison in ‘ecosystem health’ or ‘one health’ approach to safeguard the life on this planet,” said IVRI director R. K. Singh. “Understanding complexities in antimicrobial resistance pathogenesis and developing solutions accordingly is most urgent. [The] world can wait for making bombs but cannot delay the addressing of antimicrobial resistance concerns.”
Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan emphasised the need to combat antimicrobial resistance at a recent meeting of the G20 nations’ health ministers. The World Health Organization has named antimicrobial resistance one of the ten dominant health threats facing the world today – and as the study conducted in Bareilly shows, it is disturbingly prevalent.