Genes Detected In Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs From India Found In Arctic: Study

The Logical Indian Crew

January 29th, 2019 / 1:30 PM

Superbug India Arctic

Image Credit: Hindustan Times

A study has found that the genes detected in antibiotic-resistant superbugs in the High Arctic originated in India. About 131 genes associated with resistance to antibiotics were discovered in Antibiotic and the origin of one out of those first found in India, located about 8,000 miles or 12,875 km away.

Superbugs genes from India found in the Arctic

The study was published in Environment International journal on January 28. The study was carried out by a group of scientists who examined 40 soil samples collected from the Kongsfjorden region in the High Arctic. The Kongsfjorden region is said to have no agriculture or any industry. It only has a small population of humans and wildlife. The soil samples so collected are the types typically found in tundra region with shrubs and polar desert with flat plains with snow dunes and icebergs.

Notably, only genes and not resistant bacteria were detected. One set of genes blaNDM-1 which was one of the 131 genes detected traces its origin to India. blaNDM-1 allows resistance to multiple drugs including Carbapenems, a last-resort class of drug used to treat severe infection, reported CNN. blaNDM-1 gene was first found in a patient who was being treated in Delhi in 2008. In 2010, it was found in the surface waters of Delhi. David Graham, the lead researcher and professor at Newcastle University in the UK said, “Less than three years after the first detection of the blaNDM-1 gene in the surface waters of urban India, we are finding them thousands of miles away in an area where there has been a minimal human impact.”

The researchers say that the genes were likely to have been spread through faecal matter by human or wildlife. Graham said that finding these genes in one of the most remote places of Earth showed that “all it really takes is one person or one animal to carry the gene somewhere where there is inadequate sanitation”. However, he added that the study did not imply that there are superbugs in the High Arctic, but rather it points out that a particular environment has the potential to express that gene.

Superbug scare

Antibiotics can kill certain kinds of microorganisms. They kill bacteria or slow the growth of bacteria and have been used for decades as action against bacterial diseases.

Bacteria can carry genes that allow them to survive exposure to the antibiotics used to treat them. This means that infections caused by these bacteria are harder to treat, although they are not necessarily more severe or infectious. This is called antibiotic resistance and is an example of evolution in action.

The gene that carries antibiotic resistance can be passed between bacteria, allowing for the creation of bacteria (over successive generations) that carry genes that enable it to be resistant to many different antibiotics. This is called a superbug.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has described superbugs as the greatest threat to human health. The international health organisation has said that new antibiotics must be developed urgently to fight a dozen dangerous families of bacteria which have become resistant to antibiotic action.

Antibiotic resistance spreads very quickly, far faster than microbiologists expected. As James Gallagher wrote, “As long as new drugs keep coming, resistance is not a problem. But there has not been a new class of antibiotics discovered since the 1980s. This is now a war and one we are in severe danger of losing. Antibiotics are more widely used than you might think and world without antibiotics would be far more dangerous.”

Also Read: Superbugs: A Rising Threat To Society & What We Can Do About Them


Written by : Shraddha Goled

Edited by : Bharat Nayak

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