The spread of drug-resistant bacteria through water is emerging as a serious public health threat across South Asia.
Though seen as part of a global trend, the risk of massive spread through poor sanitation calls for special attention in South Asia, says Timothy Walsh, a scientist at the University of Cardiff who is working on antibiotic resistance genes (ARG) in Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The latest study from South Asia was led by David Graham from Newcastle University, UK.
Scientists from India and the UK compared water samples along the river Ganges at the two pilgrimage centres of Haridwar and Rishikesh.
Looking for the presence of 'New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1' — an enzyme that confers resistance to multiple antibiotics that was first reported from India in 2011 — the scientists found a 20-fold increase in the levels of the ARG during the pilgrim season. On a parallel track, the scientists also found uniformly high levels of ARG in Delhi, across both months.
Graham's team had reported a similar increase in ARG in the Almendares river in Cuba during the wet season.
"Our short-term solution is for local governments to make available much more local waste-handling facilities to accommodate visitors during the pilgrimage season, such as portable toilets," Graham says.
Source: Science Development Network
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