New Delhi, Apr 13: The Delhi government today rejected the Lancet report on presence of a drug-resistant superbug in city's tap waters but decided to distribute chlorine tablets to people free of cost as a precautionary measure against water-borne diseases.
A high-level meeting presided over by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and attended by health experts of various agencies including National Centre for Disease Control decided to distribute the tablets to ensure that people do not contract any disease.
Representatives from MCD, NDMC and Delhi Jal Board, NCDC, Maulana Azad Medical College, Directorate of Health Services of Delhi government were present in the meeting.
“There is no superbug in Delhi water. There is no reason to worry. The water being supplied is totally safe,” said Dikshit, dispelling all concerns following the report by the international medical journal.
Health department officials said the government will distribute free chlorine tablets in its hospitals and dispensaries as water-borne diseases go up in the summer season. The DJB will also supply chlorine tablets free of cost through its outlets.
The experts were unanimous in their opinion that there had not been any evidence of presence of drug resistance bacteria among cholera and diarrhoea patients and they continue to remain susceptible to the commonly used antibiotics.
Rejecting Lancet's findings of presence of NDM-1 gene in “cholera and dysentery causing bacteria in the samples of Delhi's tap water, the experts said there was no clinical and epidemiological evidence to support the claim. “The experts were unanimous in their opinion that there had not been any evidence of increase in drug resistance in cholera and other diarrhoea causing bacteria and these continue to remain susceptible to the commonly used antibiotics,” a joint statement issued by all participating agencies in the meeting said.
Dikshit, who is also chairperson of DJB, said the water agency has been lifting around 400 water samples on a daily basis to check the quality of water. Lancet had reported that deadly superbug NDM-1 (New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase 1) producing bacteria were found in 51 out of 171 samples taken from water pools and two out of 50 tap water samples in the city.
The experts also felt that "there is no clinical and epidemiological evidence" to suggest presence of NDM1 containing bacteria in water samples.
"The experts from NCDC have been monitoring the drug resistance pattern of the cholera bacteria obtained from cases of cholera patients admitted in Delhi for the last many years and it has not found presence of carbapenem (family of anti-biotic) resistance in any of the samples," said the statement.
A DJB official said the agency has been chlorinating the water as per norms prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards which is also on par with international standards. He said DJB as well as National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) have not found any presence of any bacterial contamination in Delhi water.
“DJB has been testing 300-400 water samples per day and their results show presence of adequate chlorine and absence of any bacterial contamination. The NEERI is also separately checking samples of water in Delhi and their findings are in line with those of DJB,” said the official.
In the meeting, the experts assured the chief minister that chlorination being done by DJB is sufficient to kill all types of disease causing bacteria, including including NDM-1. The meeting felt people who do not get DJB water supply should use chlorine tablets and also drink boiled water only.
The DJB has already dispelled concerns following the report and said the water being supplied by the agency was “safe” for drinking.
One of the authors of the Lancet study Mark Toleman has accused the government of “suppressing the truth” about the presence of a drug-resistant bacteria in Delhi's public water system by “threatening” and “abusing” its own scientists.
Those present in the meeting included, NCDC Director Dr D Chattopadhyay, Dean of Maulana Azad Medical College Dr A K Agarwal, Delhi Government's Director of Health Services V N Kamat and top officials of MCD, NDMC and Delhi Jal Board.
A report by MCD's Public Health department had last month said that 18 per cent of water supplied by the DJB is unfit for drinking and every fifth person in the city is consuming contaminated water. PTI