Over 50 percent of bacterial infections in Indian hospitals are resistant to commonly used antibiotics, and surveys show that many widespread bacterial pathogens in India are also resistant to powerful, broad-spectrum antibiotics.
In 2010, a team of South Asian and British scientists analyzed bacterial infections in a hospital around New Delhi, and found that 24 percent could also resist hospitals' last-resort intravenous antibiotics, called "carbapenems," and 13 percent were endowed with a super-resistant gene, dubbed "New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase 1," or NDM-1, which confers resistance to carbapenems along with at least 14 other antibiotics.
"Everybody is hell scared," says medical microbiologist Chand Wattal, of Sir Ganga Ram hospital in New Delhi.
Since then, NDM-1 bacteria have been found in drinking water supplies and in puddles around New Delhi, and in patients in over 35 countries, says University of Cardiff microbiologist Tim Walsh. Many of these patients are "medical tourists" who have traveled from Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas to India or Pakistan for inexpensive medical care.