We have a serious problem: superbugs. The "resistant", as they are called among doctors, kill almost a million people each year. What happens is that these pathogens become strong against antibiotics, even the most powerful ones like carbapenems, and render them useless. According to an OECD report, there is a direct relationship between the strengthening of these bacteria with the little responsible and very light consumption of antibiotics. But apart from its hospital use (generally well above what is recommended), doses of medicine can also be ingested through water or food. And, in turn, the strengthened bacteria can travel with the human in which they have developed or in other merchandise that have moved.
Precisely, in a world in which the mobility of people and food is constant, the possibility of all these bacteria reaching Europe is almost certain. Some of them have already been detected in Sweden. And the great contemporary epidemics, such as the recent Ebola in Africa or bird flu in Asia, end up jumping from continent to continent.
Antibiotic concentrations found in the Musi River in India are 1,000 times higher than those found in developed countries
The causes of the multiplication and strengthening of these pathogens that are increasingly difficult to overcome are multiple and complex. But, to date, there was an agreement that the abuse of antibiotic consumption, both in human medicine and in livestock, are the main causes. Many countries are taking action on the matter. Between 2000 and 2010, 70,000 million medicines were consumed in the world.
But in addition to these reasons, the most noted so far, it is known that factories in India and China, from where the largest amount of antibiotics are generated in the world, dump spills around their factories or give inappropriate treatment to their waste, which is causing the contamination of rivers and lakes, triggering the proliferation of superbugs. This is what groups of international ecologists report (in Spain Ecologistas en Acción), who have prepared a study to detail this situation. The most famous of these is the NDM-1 enzyme, resistant to almost all drugs and which emerged in India, specifically in its capital, New Delhi, because the first known case occurred there. A discovery that is not by chance that it occurred in this country.
In the city of Hyderabad, the epicenter of the very powerful Indian pharmaceutical industry, the concentrations of antibiotics found in its surroundings and in the Musi River, which runs through its center, are 1,000 times higher than those found in the rivers of developed countries (which They are also high), always according to reports cited by environmentalists. Consequently, India has the highest rates of resistance to almost all drugs. Focusing on the development of new drugs to solve the problem of superbugs is questionable because "new antibiotics are much more expensive than those currently available and much more expensive" than people in low- and middle-income countries can afford.
But everything is a connected chain. More than 90% of Indian medicines use raw materials imported from China, which in turn has a very serious contamination problem, so that everything is interconnected. International drug supply chains operate in secrecy, leaving only highly fragmented information on the origin and destination of specific drugs.
According to one report, nearly 60,000 newborns die each year from antibiotic-resistant bacteria in India.
Today in the "black" list of medicines made public by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), there are several manufactured by Aurobindo, one of the laboratories most indicated by the study of environmentalists. In the previous list of the EMA this laboratory was the most affected. This newspaper tried to contact those responsible in Spain, but they referred to "what I put on the website of the headquarters." What the aforementioned page says is that the company invests in various medical projects in its country of origin, India.
Of all the measures to curb resistance to antibiotics, "the fight against pollution, which for a long time has been ignored, is one of the most important," they specify from Ecologists in Action. A conclusion reached by the government of the United Kingdom itself, which in 2016 urged that targets be set in this regard. Decisions are also being made in other countries, although basically referring to the consumption of drugs by the population in hospital settings.
Regarding this problem, environmental associations propose that suppliers implement effective pollution prevention and control measures and improve waste management standards. Also "apply policies of total transparency, adopt clean production technologies and assume prevention policies in supply chains." As well as "actively participate in data collection and independent initiatives that seek to improve corporate transparency and allow the dissemination of good practices."
For large buyers they reserve more recommendations, for example, "blacklist those that help spread antibiotic resistance." The pharmaceutical industry billed, only in India in 2015, 15,000 million dollars. According to the report, nearly 60,000 newborns die each year from antibiotic-resistant bacteria in that country. Ecologists in Action today presents this study to explain it in detail.