India-UK project to study impact of drug-resistant bacteria in Musi, Adyar rivers

The project is part of a £8 million package of UK-India government-backed research aimed at deepening existing scientific research collaboration with five new programmes to tackle anti-microbial resistance (AMR).
Experts will sample and model the two contrasting river networks in India, the Musi river in Hyderabad, which has high concentrations of antibiotics released from production facilities, and the less polluted Adyar river in Chennai.(HT File/ Photo used for representational purpose only)
Experts will sample and model the two contrasting river networks in India, the Musi river in Hyderabad, which has high concentrations of antibiotics released from production facilities, and the less polluted Adyar river in Chennai.(HT File/ Photo used for representational purpose only)
Updated on Aug 06, 2020 02:38 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, London | By

The release of antibiotics into India’s rivers by manufacturers and its impact on the spread of potentially fatal drug-resistant infections is the focus of a new £1.2 million research project, the University of Birmingham announced on Thursday.

The project, jointly funded by the UK and India, will be conducted by the university with experts at the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad. An estimated 58,000 babies die in India every year from superbug infections passed on from their mothers.

The project is part of a £8 million package of UK-India government-backed research aimed at deepening existing scientific research collaboration with five new programmes to tackle anti-microbial resistance (AMR).

Supported by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council and India’s Department of Biotechnology, the cross-disciplinary team also includes researchers from Newcastle University, the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, IIT Gandhinagar and IIT Madras.

Experts will sample and model the two contrasting river networks in India, the Musi river in Hyderabad, which has high concentrations of antibiotics released from production facilities, and the less polluted Adyar river in Chennai.

The team aims to learn how far resistant bacteria travel before they die or are eaten by other organisms in a unique combination of experiments, field sampling and mathematical modelling of resistance dynamics and water flows.

Jan Kreft from the University of Birmingham said: “We don’t know how quickly antibiotics are degraded in the environment and how much they are diluted by rainfall and by entering larger rivers.”

“In our AMR flows project, we will learn how antibiotics from manufacturing and the resistant bacteria they select will flow through river networks and how far they can be transported in rivers, from where they can spread onto fields and into communities during floods - allowing us to make a quantitative risk assessment to help create environmental standards for safe concentrations of antibiotics in water bodies.”

Indian project lead Shashidhar Thatikonda of IIT Hyderabad added: “We know from previous research that the River Musi is now a factory of superbugs. Modelling water flows will be crucial in predicting the fate of resistant bacteria in the environment and we aim to create models that will be applicable in other rivers and countries.”

The scientific advances will also allow the team to compare the effectiveness of different interventions such as separate treatment of waste streams from manufacturing of antibiotics, decentralized sewage treatment or containment reservoirs, the university said.

“The recommendations we will produce will help bring down the levels of resistance in the environment. This will contribute to reduce the abundance of resistant pathogens that make infections untreatable,” Thatikonda said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Prasun Sonwalkar was Editor (UK & Europe), Hindustan Times. During more than three decades, he held senior positions on the Desk, besides reporting from India’s north-east and other states, including a decade covering politics from New Delhi. He has been reporting from UK and Europe since 1999.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2022