THE TELEGRAPH CALCUTTA

SUNDAY 11 SEPTEMBER 2016

Antibiotic
resistance
fears grow
G.S. MUDUR
New Delhi, Sept. 10: A nationwide survey has found
bacteria that can cause lifethreatening infections with
high levels of resistance to
last-resort antibiotics, fresh
evidence for a simmering public health problem linked to
the widespread abuse of antibiotics.
The unusually large survey that scanned over 135,000
patients’ blood cultures from
425 cities and towns found
high proportions of the bacteria Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae showing resistance to carbapenems, a
class of antibiotics used when
most other antibiotics have
failed.
The antibiotic resistance
patterns vary with locations,
but on average about 10 per
cent of E coli and 60 per cent of
K pneumoniae showed resistance to carbapenems. Public
health experts who conducted
the survey say these are disturbingly high and among the
highest documented across
the world.
While E coli primarily
spreads through contaminated water, K pneumoniae is an
airborne bacteria that may
also spread through contact.
Drug-resistant versions of the
bacteria have been known to
cause severe illness to patients
in intensive care units of hospitals.
Specialists tracking antibiotic resistance say the new
findings are not surprising
and appear to result from a
combination of antibiotic
abuse, poor infection control
practices and the government’s failure to curb the sales
of key antibiotics without prescriptions.
The Union health ministry
had in August 2013 notified
new rules for certain third

and fourth generation antibiotics that would be sold only
through prescriptions with
the name of buyers and quantity bought documented in
registers to be maintained for
three years.
“This initiative appears
to be poorly implemented and
appears to have had little or no
effect,” said Ramanan Laxminarayanan, a health economist at the Public Health
Foundation of India, New
Delhi, and the Centre for Disease Dynamics Economics
and Policy, Washington DC,
who led the survey.
Senior health officials
have long acknowledged the
need to curb antibiotic abuse,
but have argued in the past
that the government needs to
take into account broader concerns that many patients
across the country do not have
access to prescriptions written by doctors.
Ramanan and his colleagues studied the results of
135,268 blood cultures collected by a private diagnostic laboratory chain between 2008 and
2014 from 425 cities and towns
and found 18,695 cultures positive for infection — 94 per cent
for bacteria, six per cent for
fungi.
Their study, published
this month in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, found resistance rates
of E coli to antibiotics called
fluoroquinolones and thirdgeneration cephalosporins
high — above 80 per cent —
throughout the period of the
study.
Medical microbiologists
say the high levels of resistance to carbapenems is particularly worrying because certain infections by drug-resistant versions of E coli and K
pneumoniae have an associated mortality of about 50 per
cent.

NATION

The airborne early
warning system mounted
on an Embraer-145
aircraft being tested in
Bangalore

Embraer
contract
probe
OUR SPECIAL
CORRESPONDENT
New Delhi, Sept. 10: The defence ministry has asked its
research organisation to submit a report within 15 days on
allegations that Brazilian firm
Embraer paid commissions to
win a $208 million contract to
supply three aircraft.
Three Embraer EMB-145
were supplied to the Defence
Research and Development
Organisation (DRDO) for one
of its laboratories, the Centre
for Airborne Systems, to develop the Airborne Early
Warning and Control Systems
(AEW&C).
Indian defence rules forbid
the use of commission agents.
But investigations by the US
justice department and in
Brazil have found evidence
that the Brazilian firm paid a
UK-based agent to be favoured
for the Indian contract in 2008,
Brazilian newspaper Folha de
Sao Paolo reported this week.
“Embraer is cooperating
with the investigations and
announced in July that it was
expecting to reach a deal soon
with American authorities.
The company has put US $200
million aside to pay any eventual fines that come about as a
result of the process,” the
newspaper reported.
Defence ministry sources
in New Delhi said they were
surprised by the investigations. “We would have expected to be part of them,” said an
official.
The contract was signed in
2010 when the defence minister was A.K. Antony in the
UPA II regime.

XXCE

5

Fresh drive to remove
highway hoardings
OUR SPECIALCORRESPONDENT
New Delhi, Sept. 10: The Union road ministry
has asked regional offices of the national highway authority to launch a fresh drive to remove
illegal billboards along highways as part of efforts to reduce distractions that officials said
were a potential cause for accidents.
Ministry sources said officials in the National Highway Authority of India, in a directive earlier this week, had been asked to inspect
highway stretches under their jurisdiction and
submit reports to the Centre.
“We have also told the regional heads of the
NHAI to prioritise highways that see heavy
traffic,” a highway division official said.
“Once the reports are received, we will
write to the state governments concerned, as
assistance from local bodies and police will be
required to remove unauthorised advertisement hoardings.”
In 2012, the road transport and highways
ministry had issued a circular that said
no advertisement hoardings were permitted
along highways but mentioned some
exceptions.
“As per the Ministry of Road Transport &
Highways extant policy, no advertisement
hoardings are permitted on national highways
within the right of way except informative

signs of public interest such as hospitals, bus
stations etc. or advertisement of temporary
nature announcing local events such as
fairs, flower show among others,” the circular
said.
An official in minister Nitin Gadkari’s office said instructions have been issued from
“time to time to executing agencies” for removing hoardings on national highways.
“But we have been getting complaints from
several states that many stretches, particularly
those in densely populated areas, are lined up
with illegal hoardings which are often put up
with the help of local bodies,” he said.
“These hoardings are a source of distraction to drivers and have caused accidents in
many cases,” the official added.
The drive to remove illegal hoardings is
among several steps the ministry has taken
since 1.46 lakh people died on India’s roads last
year in nearly five lakh accidents.
The measures include a two-month deadline to remove liquor shops along national
highways after most state governments ignored an advisory issued earlier this year.
Officials said the states had been told to act
by October on the advisory, which the ministry
issued after the Supreme Court asked the Centre in April this year to crack down on drinkdriving.