The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Super bug boom in drug cocktail
- Hospitals eye check on antibiotics misuse

The invasion of the “super bug” in Calcutta’s private hospitals has forced harried infection-control officers to sound an alert. Calcuttans, they warn, are developing resistance to third and fourth-generation antibiotics and helping the bacteria grow.

Bitten by the super bug — as the bacteria is popularly referred to — doctors have framed a common antibiotics policy to check misuse of drugs from increasing over-the-counter sales and unethical prescriptions. The aim: bring down the rate of nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infections caused by bacteria.

Taking the lead is Sanjay De Bakshi, surgical gastro-enterologist, who convened a series of meetings in several city hospitals over the past few weeks. Doctors and medical staff were informed how patients who develop resistance to second and third-generation antibiotics are falling prey to infections.

The Association of Hospitals of Eastern India — a conglomerate of top 10 private hospitals — has also called for the formation of an infection-control committee to monitor a common antibiotic policy in hospitals, said association president Sajal Dutta.

“Over-use of antibiotics through prescriptions and over-the-counter sales have taken a menacing shape. Now, every eight out of 10 Calcuttans are showing resistance to antibiotics and as a result, doctors are forced to try out different groups, which results in spiralling medical costs for the patient,” De Bakshi told Metro.

Internal surveys by hospitals reveal how nosocomial infections have increased by almost 36 per cent in the past 20 years, with 50 per cent of the total infections reported from hospitals being nosocomial in nature.

To try and stop cross-infection, Jodhpur Park’s EEDF has already installed hand scrubs in the intensive care unit for doctors. Ruby General Hospital, on the EM Bypass, has also introduced an antibiotic policy to check infection in its intensive care units. “We take evasive action whenever one infection control officer sounds the red alert,” said Sajal Dutta, managing director of the hospital.

“We had never thought, even a few years ago, that a third-generation drug like cephalosporins would have no effect on bacteria. This is the result of indiscriminate use of antibiotics,” said Abhijit Bhattacharya, a critical-care specialist.

“We have come across cases where patients developed infections after being prescribed antibiotics like ciprofloxacin and erythromycin for viral fever. Some doctors also prescribe a cocktail of antibiotics,” added Bhattacharya.

According to specialists, bacteria, when exposed to antibiotics in a patient who does not follow the prescribed course, evolves an elaborate and sophisticated defence system against drugs. Genetic information is also passed on from one bacterium to the other through cross-infection.

According to De Bakshi, doctors often pass on an infection from one patient to the other during visits at wards, through touch. “A bacteria which is resistant to one particular antibiotic very easily swaps information with another bacteria from another patient and acquires some new resistance from the other bacteria,” he added.

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