International health journal Lancet has slammed the government for "suppressing" truth about the presence of a drug-resistant bacteria in Delhi's public water system by "threatening" and "abusing" its own scientists.
It also dubbed as "unfortunate" the government's denial of presence of such bacteria.
"The research is entirely scientific. If you look at our publication record for the last 10 years you will find that discovering new and emerging mechanisms of resistance is what we have been doing for 10 years," Mark Toleman, one of the co-authors of the study which claimed to have found the bacteria in the capital's waters, told PTI via e-mail.
"You will also notice that we have done similar studies on isolates from many different countries. Furthermore a responsible response would be to empower Indian scientists to do similar studies.
"Unfortunately the Indian government is in denial and actively suppresses the truth by threatening and abusing their own scientists," the author said.
Asked about a senior health ministry official's claim that the researchers transferred samples for the study illegally, Tony Kirby, the magazine's press officer said, "We broke no Indian laws whatsoever."
The debate over naming the bacteria should not detract from the importance of the findings in Walsh and colleagues' paper and the implications that they might have for human health, he said.
"We recognise that a discussion continues about the appropriateness of naming microorganisms, enzymes, genes, and their associated diseases with an identifier that some observers may feel stigmatises a place or a people," he said.
The official said this "important and sensitive" issue was being examined by editors and may be discussed.
"For now, naming is the responsibility of the authors of the paper, and in the case of NDM-1 we are continuing to use a name first published in 2008, two years before its previous appearance in The Lancet Infectious Diseases," he said.
Toleman said the bacteria was named 'New Delhi-beta-lactamase' first in an American journal called Antibiotic Agents and Chemotherapy in 2009 and the naming had nothing to do with Lancet.
"In fact our original paper was rejected by Lancet. Furthermore NDM-1 is the correct name and follows the naming of most genes of this type. Others are named SPM-1 for Sao Paulo metallo-b-lactamase, SIM for Seoul imipenemase in Korea, VIM for Veronna imipenemase in Italy, GIM for Germany imipenemase and DIM for Dutch imipenemas," he said.
The Indian government had come out strongly against a report on the presence of a drug-resistant bacteria in the public water system of the capital saying the motives behind it were not "scientific" and the government will respond at an appropriate forum.
"Just to keep the heat on a country or a region...is not scientific motive for a study," secretary, Department of Health Research V M Katoch told reporters.
"Enough is enough, scientifically we will respond to it in an appropriate forum," Katoch, who is also the director of Indian Council of Medical Research, said.
India had earlier protested against the naming of the bug after its capital, saying the research was not supported by scientific data.
Director general of health services R K Srivastava said that following the publication of the report in August last year, the government had written to the editor of the Lancet asking him to publish a letter refuting the theory, but the magazine had refused to do so.