- In order to find new ways to fight drug-resistant superbugs, scientists have mapped the genomes of more than 3,000 bacteria.
- The data included genome codes of more than 5,500 bugs
- The samples included a bug taken from Alexander Fleming’s nose and a dysentery-causing strain called Shigella flexneri from a World War One soldier.
- The DNA of deadly strains of plague, dysentery and cholera were also decoded.
Importance of genome data
- Around 70 percent of bacteria are already resistant to at least one antibiotic.
- In addition the evolution of ‘superbugs’ that can evade one or multiple drugs is a serious threat.
- The world is also facing antibiotic shortage and supply chain breakdowns that could quickly spiral into outbreaks of disease and consequently antibiotic resistance.
- Among the most serious risks is tuberculosis – which infects more than 10.4 million people a year and killed 1.7 million in 2016.
- Gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease is becoming almost untreatable.
- Data on what bacteria looked like before and during the introduction of antibiotics and vaccines could in turn help us develop new antibiotics and vaccines.
Basics: About Bacteria
- Bacteria are single-celled organisms, with an envelope surrounding the cytoplasm, which contains the DNA (they have no nuclei).
- Bacterial cells undergo binary fission, and a single cell can grow into a colony of cells.
- Bacteria carry genetic information in two structures:
- Bacterial chromosome: the genes that provide instructions for all of the basic life processes of a bacterium are usually located in a circular DNA molecule.
- Plasmids: Besides their main chromosome, many bacteria have additional genetic information—circular DNA molecules called plasmids that carry genes for specific functions.
- Resistance plasmids are genes enabling bacteria to resist the effects of antibiotics.
- As a result of presence of plasmid genetic information is not only transmitted through binary fission from parent to daughter cells but within the same generation through a process called conjugation.
- Microbes live everywhere they can, and compete for the best places to attach themselves and the richest sources of food to eat.
- This competition takes mainly 2 forms:
- Rapid growth to crowd competitors out of a living space
- Superior ability to take in nutrients to starve competitors
- Antibiotics are produced by microbes to help them compete with other microbes, and most of the antibiotics we use today are derived from microbes.
- Multidrug-resistant organisms are bacteria that have become resistant to certain antibiotics, and these antibiotics can no longer be used to control or kill the bacteria.
- Bacteria that resist treatment with more than one antibiotic are called multidrug-resistant organisms or superbugs.
- Bacteria and other microbes have developed a variety of ways to resist antibiotics:
- Some bacteria pump an antibiotic out of their cells as fast as it enters, so it never reaches a lethal concentration inside the bacterial cell.
- Some have proteins that bind to the antibiotic molecule and block its lethal effect.
- Third category has enzymes that break down the antibiotic molecules, which are then used as fuel to help the bacteria grow faster.
- Many of the genes that code for resistance are on plasmids meaning that a bacterium carrying a resistance gene can transmit the gene to other bacteria within the same generation by conjugation.
Superbugs in India
- India is antibiotic popping capital of the world, consuming around 13 billion annually.
Causes of multi-drug resistance in India
- OTC- Over the counter medication.
- Over-prescribing of antibiotics by doctors and unregulated use
- Incomplete antibiotic dosage.
- Antibiotic use in agriculture and livestock.
- Bad sanitation practices leading to spread of strains.
- Lack of regulation of the discharge of antimicrobial waste into the environment.
Steps taken by India to combat AMR
- Global Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (GLASS) was launched in 2015 by WHO to support the global action plan on antimicrobial resistance.
- The aim is to support global surveillance and research in order to strengthen the evidence base on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and help informing decision-making and drive national, regional, and global actions.
- India has enrolled to GLASS system.
2. Redline campaign
- India has launched Red Line campaign to curb over-the-counter use of antibiotics.
- The idea is to put a red line on antibiotic which are prescription-only antibiotics to curb their irrational use and create awareness on the dangers of taking antibiotics without being prescribed.
3. National Action Plan to combat Antimicrobial Resistance 2017
- In 2017, India developed a National Action Plan to combat Antimicrobial Resistance for a coordinated approach to fight antimicrobial resistance.
- Delhi declaration was signed to adopt the multi-sectoral and inter-ministerial action plan and for collectively strategizing to contain AMR by Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Health & Family Welfare.
- Objectives include
- Enhancing awareness
- Strengthening surveillance
- Improving rational use of antibiotics
- Reducing infections
- Promoting research
- In addition, India aims to support neighbouring countries in collective fight against infectious diseases.