The Ministry of Health protested against the British study blaming India for exporting a drug-resistant superbug to the rest of the world. “India strongly refutes the naming of this enzyme as New Delhi metallo beta lactamase (NDM-1) and also refutes that hospitals in India are not safe for treatment, including medical tourism,” read a statement from the Union Health ministry.
“It is ridiculous to call it NDM-1 when none of the samples that tested positive were picked in New Delhi,” said Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman, Medanta-The Medicity, who called it a commercially-motivated campaign to hurt India’s Rs 1,200-crore medical tourism industry.
He got support from Dr VM Katoch, secretary, department of health research. “Getting infection by such drug-resistant bacteria is a matter of chance and can happen anywhere.
A national resistance alert was issued in UK hospitals in July 2009, and similar alert has been sounded now. Similar superbugs have been reported from Israel, US, Greece and Scotland...” said Dr Katoch.
“It also needs to be highlighted that several of the authors have declared conflict of interest in the publication. The study was funded by EU and pharmaceutical firms that produce antibiotics for treatment of such cases,” he added. Lead researcher from Chennai KK Kumarasamy got funding from Wyeth, a pharma company, while another author has shares in companies such as AstraZeneca, Merck, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline.
The study shows a bias in hospital selection. Samples have been picked up from government hospitals, which are not destinations for foreign patients.
“The concluding sentence presents a frightening picture not supported by any scientific data. Many British NDM-1 positive patients had no travel or connection to India...” said a Union health ministry official.