ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Science and Politics behind the 'New Delhi' Superbug

Superbugs, or drug-resistant germs, have been known for some time and so has the main reason for their emergence - the overuse and abuse of anti-biotics. However, the recent controversy over the "New Delhi" superbug shows how the politics of science research publication affects the manner in which such research is disseminated and received, both within the science establishment and in public policy. It is imperative that governments take corrective, and precautionary, measures based on a dispassionate reading of the evidence, rather than focus only on the unfortunate nomenclature used for identifying this particular germ.

A recent article in The Lancet Infectious Diseases meticulously identifies a stretch of DNA, reflexively named the New Delhi Metallo-betalactamase-1 (blaNDM-1 ) that confers resistance to almost all known antibiotics, in germs found infecting patients in south Asia and the United Kingdom (UK). Unusually for a scientific report, the paper ends by indignantly citing a newspaper article, and expressing the sentiment that “(i)t is disturbing, in context, to read calls in the popular press for UK patients to opt for corrective surgery in India...” 1

The form and content of this last paragraph, not to mention the fact that the findings motivated a publication from the Lancet stable to offer editorial comment, raises several interesting issues related to politics of doing and publishing science, and the way in which doing science expects to influence policy

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