Some sobering news from India: The rise of ‘superbugs’ among its newborns

I recognize this story might be a bit hyperbolic, but it’s still fairly alarming — and it demonstrates the hurdles and challenges still facing India. From the New York Times:

A deadly epidemic that could have global implications is quietly sweeping India, and among its many victims are tens of thousands of newborns dying because once-miraculous cures no longer work.

These infants are born with bacterial infections that are resistant to most known antibiotics, and more than 58,000 died last year as a result, a recent study found. While that is still a fraction of the nearly 800,000 newborns who die annually in India, Indian pediatricians say that the rising toll of resistant infections could soon swamp efforts to improve India’s abysmal infant death rate. Nearly a third of the world’s newborn deaths occur in India.


While far from alone in creating antibiotic resistance, India’s resistant infections have already begun to migrate elsewhere.

“India’s dreadful sanitation, uncontrolled use of antibiotics and overcrowding coupled with a complete lack of monitoring the problem has created a tsunami of antibiotic resistance that is reaching just about every country in the world,” said Dr. Timothy R. Walsh, a professor of microbiology at Cardiff University.

Indeed, researchers have already found “superbugs” carrying a genetic code first identified in India — NDM1 (or New Delhi metallo-beta lactamase 1) —around the world, including in France, Japan, Oman and the United States.


Doctors interviewed in hospitals across India said that a large number of the infections they found in newborns were resistant to many antibiotics. Awareness of the problem has begun to grow, with Indian medical associations calling for efforts to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use. But there is keen sensitivity here to any alert to the dangers. A 2010 discovery of a New Delhi “superbug” caused intense controversy because of fears that publicity would threaten India’s profitable medical tourism industry. Government officials have stopped some studies of the problem, Dr. Walsh said.

The effects of antibiotic-resistant bacteria on treating disease in India could be enormous. Tuberculosis is just one example of the challenges doctors face. India has the world’s largest number of cases, and recent studies using the latest genetic tests have shown that as many as 10 percent of untreated patients in places as far apart as Mumbai and Sikkim have resistant infections. These patients are catching resistant bugs at home, not hospitals, making the epidemic very difficult to control, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, director of the National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis, said in an interview.

On a totally separate topic, here’s the latest in India’s effort to “reclaim” yoga via its new minister of yoga:

Indian officials plan to reintroduce yoga into all facets of civic life, including more than 600,000 schools, thousands of hospitals and police training centres.

They are also spearheading efforts to promote India’s most famous export, with Mr Modi proposing a “geographical indication” at the UN for yoga – a trade protection normally given to region-specific goods such as Parmesan cheese or Champagne. The UN will consider the proposal on December 10.

“It’s a way of medicine that belongs to India,” Mr Naik told a local TV station. “After the British came to India, they suppressed Indian medicine and tried to foist Western medicine on us – that’s why traditional medicine could not be promoted.”

I know lots of Western yogis are sharing stories about this development on social media, and at the briefest blush it seems all good. A minister for yoga? Great! But there’s lots more under the surface. From the excerpt above, for instance, how will you feel if you couldn’t call your yoga “yoga” anymore — because it had to be based from some school in India?

And would Ashtanga fit that definition, with its Mysore base? Maybe just for teachers authorized/certified?

Posted by Steve 

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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