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'Superbug' That May Cause 'Next Pandemic' Found in Andaman: What Is This Deadly Fungus

Representative Image.

Representative Image.

Traces of the deadly 'superbug' have been found in the wilds of Andaman for the first time. What are superbugs?

While the world reels under one pandemic, scientists have already warned against the outbreak of the next pandemic of ‘superbug’ called Candida auris or C and the traces of the same have been found in the wilds of Andaman for the first time on March 16. Earlier, in 2012 a Germany-based report had suggested that 100 – 200 million Indians might be carrying two deadly forms of superbug, ha-MRSA and ca-MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) – said to be resistant to all available antibiotics, except for one that has never been tried, because of its potentially fatal side effects. The organism was first detected in Delhi almost a decade back, as per reports.

The fungus sprung up from nowhere and has been found in nature for the first time, researchers said in a study that was published in the journal mBio.

A team led by Dr Anuradha Chowdhary of Delhi University studied 48 samples of soil and water which were collected from eight natural sites around the Andaman islands. The superbugs were found from two sites ―a salt marsh wetland seldom visited by people and a beach with more human activity, reports The Week.

What are Superbugs?

A superbug is resistant to all known antibiotics that can cause “severe” infections or even death is spreading undetected through hospital wards across the world. The bacteria, known as Staphylococcus epidermidis, is related to the better-known and more deadly MRSA. It’s found naturally on human skin and most commonly infects the elderly or patients who have had prosthetic materials implanted, such as catheters and joint replacements. “It can be deadly, but it’s usually in patients who already are very sick in hospital… it can be quite hard to eradicate and the infections can be severe,” said scientists.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines AMR as “the ability of a microorganism (like bacteria, viruses, and some parasites) to stop an antimicrobial (such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials) from working against it. As a result, standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others.” In other words, the irrational use of medicines and antibiotics renders the cure ineffective.

In India, the so-called ‘superbugs’ kill nearly 60,000 newborns every year, making the country the epicentre in the global war to present a post-antibiotic world, where common infections can prove fatal, a report from 2018 stated.

International researchers said they believe the superbug is spreading rapidly due to the particularly high use of antibiotics in intensive care units, where patients are sickest and strong drugs are prescribed as routine. WHO has long warned of antibiotic overuse sparking new strains of killer, drug-resistant bacteria.

How to prevent superbugs?

Various innovative solutions initiated by India-based startups are trying to diagnose the superbugs in the body at an early stage.

A UTI (urinary tract infection) test through ‘Usense’, developed by Pune-based Module Innovations, is a credit card-sized test that is capable of detecting four major uropathogens through a single probe.

The NanoDx team based in Delhi and Hyderabad is creating a point of care test called Septiflo that can detect and stratify the Gram status of bacterial infections in a drop of human plasma in under 10 minutes. The results are visible to the naked eye and semi-quantified using a colour score chart.

A collaborative team of OmiX and SpotSense in Bengaluru is creating a non-invasive diagnostic test that uses salivary markers of infection as the basis for diagnostics.