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Bacteria In The Pampa Resistant To Antibiotics  
Source:   Business line City   : Thiruvananthapuram Published On   08-11-2009  


In what could be described as a major potential health hazard, the bacteria in the Pampa river is becoming resistant to almost all the antibiotics that are used commonly, a study report by a team of scientists in the Kerala University found.

Pampa being the major halting point for the Sabarimala pilgrims, the fact that the river is infested with E.coli has been reported earlier by a number of studies including that of the State Pollution Control Board.

However, it is for the first time that a scientific study is pointing out the dangers of this E.coli becoming resistant to many antibiotics.

A Gangaprasad of the KU Department of Botany and Jayachandran V P of Sree Narayana Guru Institute of Science and Technology, who conducted the study over a two-year period, have found that this resistance to antibiotics can be transferred to other microbes and a host of other animals and fish and probably back to humans through the food chain.

 ``Devotees come from various states and many of them could be on antibiotics for various diseases or as part of self-medication. When the faecal contamination happens, all this goes into the flowing water and this would facilitate the drug-resistant E.coli to move into other environments such as that of Vembanad Lake and Kuttanad,’’ said Jayachandran, who had analysed multiple water samples from six different collection points at Pampa.

 The study team has found that while the E.coli in Pampa is showing almost complete resistance to penicillin, over 60 percent of them showed resistance to the broad spectrum antibiotic, tetracycline.

``If E.coli can develop such strong resistance to this drug, it is only a matter of time before other bacteria become resistant as well, as E.coli has the capability to transfer resistance traits,’’ said Gangaprasad. The antibiotic resistance gets transferred from one bacterium to another by genetic recombination among bacteria.

 The E.coli also showed almost fifty percent resistance to ciprofloxacin, amoxicillin and ampicillin. But what is most worrying is that as much as 94 percent of the bacteria showed resistance to multiple antibiotics.

Even worse, 45 percent of the bacteria showed resistance to five antibiotics.

``This means we now have a genetic pool of antibiotic resistance, which can cause a major health catastrophe in the future. As it is, Alappuzha is already an epidemic area and the presence of such microbes with multiple drug resistance can mess up any infection control strategies, leading to explosive situations,’’ said  Jayachandran.

 Multiple drug resistance has always been associated with the outbreak of major epidemics throughout the world and the multiple antibiotic resistant E.coli has always a chance of getting into the food chain through duck and fish, back to the humans.

 ‘‘The prime concern of the work is that the problem of intense faecal contamination in Pampa river can affect the people staying in the downstream regions.

‘‘And with Sabarimala pilgrimage season just round the corner, there has to be some intervention from the part of the State Government,’’ the scientists said.”


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