Cheap Drugs May Have Turned This Indian Lake Into A ‘Superbug Hotspot’

Centuries past, Indian princes would bathe in the unconcerned Kazhipally lake in Medak. Now, not only so the poorest villagers here in India’s baking southern point to the barren banks and empty water and say they avoid going anywhere impending it.

A short drive from the bustling tech hub of Hyderabad, Medak is the courage of India’s antibiotics manufacturing office: a district of about 2.5 very great number that has become one of the world’s largest suppliers of poor drugs to most markets, including the United States.

But common activists, researchers and some drug assembly employees say the presence of more than 300 drug firms, combined by lax oversight and inadequate water treatment, has left lakes and rivers laced through antibiotics, making this a giant Petri dish during the term of anti-microbial resistance.

“Resistant bacteria are procreation here and will affect the undivided world,” said Kishan Rao, a instructor and activist who has been acting in Patancheru, a Medak industrial baldric where many drug manufacturers have bases, conducive to more than two decades.

Drugmakers in Medak, including ample Indian firms Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd (REDY.NS), Aurobindo Pharma Ltd (ARBN.NS) and Hetero Drugs Ltd, and U.S. cyclops Mylan Inc (MYL.O), say they comply by local environmental rules and do not discharge effluent into waterways.

National and limited government are divided on the progressive series of the problem.

While the Central Pollution Control Board (PCB) in New Delhi categorizes Medak’s Patancheru sunken space adjoining the basement as “critically polluted”, the magnificence PCB says its own monitoring shows the ground has improved.

The rise of physic-resistant “superbugs” is a augmenting threat to modern medicine, with the emergence in the past year of infections resistant to smooth last-resort antibiotics.

In the United States alone, antibiotic-resistant bacteria efficient ~ 2 million serious infections and 23,000 deaths year by year, according to health officials.

Thirteen leading drugmakers promised last week to adroit up pollution from factories making antibiotics because part of a drive to contend the rise of drug-resistant superbugs, at the same time that United Nations member countries pledged conducive to the first time to take steps to tackle the threat. 


Patancheru is one of the main pharmaceutical manufacturing hubs in Telangana commonwealth, where the sector accounts for in a circle 30 percent of GDP, according to communication ministry data. Drug exports from plight capital Hyderabad are worth around $14 billion annually.

Local doctor Rao pointed to studies ~ dint of. scientists from Sweden’s University of Gothenburg that be under the necessity found very high levels of pharmaceutical taint in and around Kazhipally lake, at the same time with the presence of antibiotic-resistant genes.

The scientists gain been publishing research on pollution in the superficies for nearly a decade. Their chief study, in 2007, said antibiotic concentrations in effluent from a method of treating plant used by drug factories were higher than would subsist expected in the blood of patients undergoing a behavior of treatment. That effluent was discharged into topical lakes and rivers, they said.

“The polluted lakes harbored considerably higher proportions of ciprofloxacin-resistant and sulfamethoxazole-resistant bacteria than did other Indian and Swedish lakes included with regard to comparison,” said their latest minute, in 2015, referring to the generic names of pair widely used antibiotics.

Those findings are disputed ~ dint of. local government officials and industry representatives.

The Hyderabad-based Bulk Drug Manufacturers Association of India (BDMAI) declared the state pollution control board had plant no antibiotics in its own study of take in ~ in Kazhipally lake. The state PCB did not arrange a copy of this report, malice several requests from Reuters.

“I consider not seen any credible report that says that the drugs are not at all longer there,” Joakim Larsson, a professor of environmental pharmacology at the University of Gothenburg who led the first Swedish study and took part in the others, told Reuters through email.

“There might very well acquire been improvements, but without data, I be sufficient not know.”


Local activists and researchers speak the Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) built in Medak in the 1990s was ill-equipped to handle large volumes of pharmaceutical loss.

After protests and court cases brought ~ means of local villagers a 20-km (12-mile) pipeline was built to take effluent to one more plant near Hyderabad. But activists tell that merely diverted the problem – wasting sent there, they say, mixes by domestic sewage before the treated effluent is discharged into the Musi stream.

A study published this year ~ the agency of researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad, mould very high levels of broad-image antibiotics in the Musi, a tributary of the Krishna, one of India’s longest rivers.

Local guidance officials responsible for the plants did not reply to Reuters’ requests for comment.

Nearly a twelve current and former officials from companies producing medicines in Patancheru told Reuters that factory staff from various firms often illegally dump untreated chemical effluent into boreholes ~ of plants, or even directly into topical water bodies at night.

All the officials spoke adhering condition of anonymity and Reuters was incapable to independently verify those allegations.

Major manufacturers in the superficial contents, including Dr Reddy’s and Mylan, uttered they operated so-called zero dulcet discharge (ZLD) technology and processed bare onsite.

“Mylan is not dumping in ~ degree effluent into the environment, borewells or the CETP,” said spokeswoman Nina Devlin.

Dr Reddy’s related it recycled water onsite and complied with all environmental regulations.

The same assiduity officials who spoke to Reuters related the pollution control board rarely checked wilderness-treatment practices at factories, adding that penalties during breaches were meager.

The Telangana set forth government did not respond to requests during the term of comment.

“We are aware some companies are releasing more than the allowed effluent, mete they are profit-making companies,” afore~ state PCB spokesman N. Raveendher. “We be enough try and take action against the offenders, if it be not that we cannot kill the industry besides.”

Many smaller companies also lacked the funds to introduce into office expensive machinery for treating waste, he added.


A concatenation of local court cases have been filed stretching back brace decades, accusing drug companies of uncleanness and local authorities of poor checks. In more cases, companies have been ordered to pay yearly record compensation to villagers, but many are gentle grinding through India’s tortuous ~ized system.

Wahab Ahmed, 50, owns five acres of district near the shores of Kazhipally lake, to what he grew rice until a decade past. He says the worsening industrial contamination from several nearby pharmaceutical factories left his ground barren.

“We have protested, sued, and vouchsafed all sorts of things over the years … that’s in what manner some of us are now getting around 1,700 rupees (roughly $20) a year from the companies,” he uttered.

“But what can you observe with that small sum today?”

More than 200 companies were named because respondents in the case he was referring to, filed ~ means of a non-profit organization on profit of villagers.

While pollution of farmland is a weighty problem for villagers who depend up~ the body it for their livelihood, the in posse incubation of “superbugs” in Medak’s waterways has wider implications.

The copy is particularly worrisome in India, at what place many waterways also contain harmful bacteria from human drainage. The more such bacteria are exposed to antibiotics, the greater the chances they choose mutate and render such drugs inefficacious. against them.

The risk is that resistant bacteria would therefore infect people and be spread ~ the agency of travel.

So far, most of the point of concentration worldwide on antimicrobial resistance has been without interrupti~ over-use of drugs in human healing art and farming.

“Pollution from antibiotic factories is a third big factor in causing antimicrobial resistance,” the chairman of one of the world’s largest drugmakers told Reuters. “But it is largely overlooked.”

(Additional reporting ~ the agency of Ben Hirschler in LONDON; Editing by Clara Ferreira Marques and Alex Richardson)

It’s over any doubt, one of the most difficult things to control and the ut~ common health hazards today.

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