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August 16, 2010

Is the India Superbug a Hoax?

HEALTH - The pharmaceutical company that funded the study of the "discovery" of a superbug in India which was found in visitors to the country is now being questioned by the press and governments over whether this was all an elaborate scheme to sell antibiotics, which the company is question is one of the world's largest producers of.

"The study nowhere mentions if the bacteria were found even before those persons visited India,” says India's Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. “The study was funded by a pharma company which is one of the biggest antibiotics maker in the world.”

According to the study in question, the new superbug was found in 37 cases of patients who had travelled to India for cosmetic surgery, cancer treatment and transplants. That doesn't mean they caught the superbug when they arrived in India, but rather they simply had the superbug when the study was conducted and the origin might instead be North America since that is where many of these surgery and cancer treatment "tourists" are from.

Researchers have been warning this superbug (New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1 or NDM-1) could spread worldwide and attach itself to other diseases which are currently treated by antibiotics, creating new strains which are resistant and more deadly.

So the superbug is real, but the pharmaceutical company which funded the study hasn't been entirely honest about its origins or its research methodology. India's Minister of State for Health Dinesh Trivedi says India will be getting to the bottom of this elaborate scheme.

“Obviously, we have to find out if there are some kind of ulterior motives or not of some pharmaceutical industries as well. I personally feel that sometimes, some things are commercially motivated.” says Dinesh Trivedi.

India is a global hub for medical care at an affordable price. Medical tourists often travel to India because they have some of the most affordable private health care available and treatment options which aren't available in their own countries.

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