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‘Highly contagious bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotic used to treat throat infections’

Mumbai doctors who conducted the study said such high resistance to azithromycin was unexpected and could mean that the drug is over-prescribed

mumbai Updated: Oct 29, 2017 01:01 IST
Aayushi Pratap
Aayushi Pratap
Hindustan Times
bacteria,antibiotics,throat infections
Doctors said the results reiterated the need to use antibiotics judiciously.(HT File)

A month after the World Health Organisation announced that the planet was running out of antibiotics, a Mumbai study has shown that in 58% of bacterial throat infections, the bug streptococcus pyogenes is resistant to azithromycin — a commonly used antibiotic. However, the findings showed that there was no resistance to the antibiotic amoxicillin.

Doctors who conducted the study said such high resistance to azithromycin was unexpected and could mean that the drug is over-prescribed. “The findings seem to suggest that streptococcus pyogenes’ resistance to azithromycin is because it is overused. The reason we didn’t see any resistance to amoxicillin is because it is not prescribed as often,” said Dr Dhanya Dharmapalan, consultant paediatric disease specialist, Apollo Hospital, Navi Mumbai. Samples for the study were collected in February and March, when doctors in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai saw an ‘outbreak’ of bacterial throat infections in children.

“Once we confirmed that the infections were bacterial and not viral, we collected the samples from their throats using a specialised cotton swab,” Dr Dharmapalan said.

The samples of 12 children were sent to CMC, Vellore, where a DNA sequence analysis of the bacterial samples was carried out.

The study was funded by the Indian Council of Medical Research.

Last month, the WHO recognised antibiotic resistance as a global threat. “Antimicrobial resistance is a global health emergency that will seriously jeopardise progress in modern medicine,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, in a press release.

Dr Suhas Prabu, paediatrician, PD Hinduja Hospital, Mahim, said the problem is highly underplayed in India.

He added that while amoxicillin is the choice of drug for treating streptococcus infections, there could be two main reasons for increased use of azithromycin. “Azithromycin has to be taken just once daily, for three days. On the other hand, amoxicillin has to be taken thrice a day, for ten days,” he said.

Another reason is that, unlike amoxicillin, the prices of azithromycin do not fall under the Drug Price Control Order, which is why manufacturing companies make a high profit. “Azythromycin is promoted by the pharmaceutical companies as it has a high profit margin,” he added.

Dr Dharmapalan said the results reiterated the need to use antibiotics judiciously. “While doctors need to prescribe antibiotics rationally, patients need to be careful and finish the course. There needs to be major checks on over-the-counter sales of antibiotics across India,” she said.

First Published: Oct 29, 2017 01:00 IST