Christian Medical College doctors find ‘dangerous’ drug-resistant bacteria

Christian Medical College doctors find ‘dangerous’ drug-resistant bacteria

Originally published on Indian Express

Abuse of antibiotics has resulted in the rise of yet another super-bug. Doctors from the Christian Medical College in Vellore have documented an “exceedingly dangerous” version of a common bacteria that can cause death or lead to severe health complications. Doctors fear that the multiple drug-resistant strain of this bacteria is the result of increased and poorly regulated usage of antibiotics.    

The hypervirulent strain of Klebsiella pneumonia causes an “extremely high” mortality rate of 84.2 per cent. This was found by CMC doctors who studied 86 patients (also from CMC, Vellore) infected by this specific strain, for a period of two years.  The findings were published in a recent issue of Journal of the Association of Physicians of India.

Klebsiella pneumonia is a common pathogen. It causes a wide range of infections including pneumonia, urinary tract infection, intra-abdominal infection and wound infection. But this particular strain that has been documented is far more dangerous, says the study. It has a layer of mucous around it, which prevents the entry of drugs, making it resistant to multiple types of medicines. 

“We have called this problem a ‘double whammy’,” says Dr Balaji Veeraraghavan, a senior clinical microbiologist and one of the authors of the study. That is because the “increased virulence” of the pathogen and its “decreased susceptibility” to medicines is challenging to treat those affected by it. 
Klebsiella pneumonia is found across the globe but such multiple drug-resistant strains have been documented only rarely, in isolated communities.

The CMC study, however, found that 92 per cent of the infections they documented were “healthcare associated” — in other words, acquired from a hospital. 

The presence of such virulent strains in hospitals can increase the risk associated with it. This is because in a hospital, the bug will be in the proximity of people with a compromised immunity. Further, the bug will be exposed to more drugs in a hospital environment, increasing its possibility of becoming resistant to newer antibiotics and medicines. 

“We published the study as we wanted more hospitals to come forward and report the incidence of such strains. The only way to retard the problem is by ensuring impeccable hygiene, particularly hand hygiene, at hospitals,” says Dr Balaji Veeraraghavan. “Patients, doctors and paramedics must be thoroughly sensitised to wash their hands before and after doing any activity in hospitals.” 

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