Upset over claims that a drug resistant superbug was traced to the country, India on Friday said there was need to find out whether some "ulterior motives" were behind the claim and added that a major pharma company had funded the study.
"It (superbug) is universal and is found in the intestine of humans and animals. It is wrong to say that it is found only in India and Pakistan. They say it was found in patients who visit India and Pakistan. The study nowhere mentions if the bacteria were found even before those persons visited India,” Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said.
Pointing a finger at pharmaceutical companies, Azad said: “The study was funded by a pharma company which is one of the biggest antibiotics maker in the world.”
According to a report in a British scientific journal, a new superbug had been detected in at least 37 cases in that country, mainly among patients who had travelled to India and Pakistan for cosmetic surgery, cancer treatment and transplants.
Scientists have warned that the superbug -- an enzyme they have called New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1 or NDM-1 -- could spread worldwide because it is resistant to almost all antibiotics and nothing has been developed to combat it.
Minister of State for Health Dinesh Trivedi said India cannot take the reports lying down and should get to the bottom of it.
“We are all concerned about it. The superbug is a global phenomenon. It is not area or country specific. I can tell you this with all the responsibility under my command,” he said.
With Kumarswamy Kartikan, one of the co-authors of the report, disassociating from the report, Trivedi said: “Obviously, we have to find out if there are some kind of ulterior motives or not of some pharmaceutical industries as well. I personally feel that sometimes, some things are commercially motivated.”
In an attempt to counter any adverse effects of the study, the tourism ministry sought to reassure that India is a "safe and preferred medical tourism destination".
An official spokesman of the tourism ministry stated: "India is fast emerging as a global medical health care destination because of its world class medical facilities which are manned by highly qualified doctors and paramedics. Almost all Indian hospitals servicing medical tourists are accredited either by Joint Commission International (JCI) or National Board for Accreditation of Hospitals and Health Care and follow international safety standards."
The members of the Hospital Infection Society India (HISI) and Indian Association of Medical Microbiologists (Delhi Chapter) said that the study needs to be critically analysed in the light of the fact that it has been funded and sponsored by a pharma company.
According to HISI all major hospitals in India have well defined Hospital Infection Control programmes. Moreover, in many hospitals of India the infection indices are now monitored using National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) data as a benchmark tool as per international standards.
"India is emerging as a hub for providing quality medical care at an affordable cost. It appears the study is economically motivated to prevent people from indulging in medical tourism in this region, besides promoting the antibiotic," said TS Jain, president, HISI.