Multidrug-resistant microbe repository to come up at NCCS

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NCCS will soon start receiving  and preserving multidrug-resistant bacteria and fungi from across the country. A decision is yet to be taken on microbes resistant to which antibiotics should be accepted. Samples collected from across the country will reveal how MDR microbes spread and evolve with time.

Soon, the Pune-based National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS) will receive and preserve multidrug-resistant bacteria and fungi from across the country. On September 25 this year, the Department of Biotechnology (BDT) authorised the National Centre for Microbial Resource (NCMR) at NCCS to function as a bio-repository for multidrug-resistant microbes/infective agents. The bio-repository will receive, store, maintain¸ preserve and characterise these microbes.

The notification says NCMR to take necessary steps to facilitate clinicians, scientists and others to deposit multidrug-resistant microbe samples.

Currently, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) carry out antimicrobial resistance surveillance in various geographical regions and settings. But these two bodies only collect data and not microbe samples.

In 2007, by involving nine institutes, DBT collected 150,000 microbes from natural environment, and these are housed at NCCS. “While none of the microbes collected in 2007 is drug-resistant or disease-causing, it has now been decided to extend our mandate to include multidrug-resistant microbes,” Dr Yogesh Shouche of NCCS and in-charge of the bio-repository said.

Accordingly, DBT has informed all medical colleges, hospitals, research institutions to deposit drug-resistant microbes at the repository. “So far we have not received any samples. On October 12, we will frame the guidelines for deposition and distribution of drug-resistant microbes. While we are clear that we will be accepting only multidrug-resistant microbes, we will decide microbes resistance to which antibiotics should be accepted. Once the guidelines are approved by the DBT, we will start accepting samples,” Dr Shouche said.

Multidrug-resistant microbes received from different settings in the same city and from other across the country will help shed light on the spread and resistance pattern of these microbes. “After a few years of collecting samples from across the country we will know how multidrug-resistant microbes spread and how they evolve with time,” he said.

Since antibiotics are widely used in livestock, particularly poultry, NCMR expects veterinary hospitals to share samples collected from livestock where antibiotics are used as a growth promoter. Besides livestock, antibiotics are widely used in aquaculture.

“Sharing of samples is voluntary and it depends on the willingness of institutions to do so. We will be taking steps to encourage and support sample collection and sharing. Slowly, we may start collecting samples ourselves,” Dr Shouche said. He does not rule out the possibility of DBT making all researchers who receive funding for research to compulsorily share samples with NCMR.

There is currently no large-scale study undertaken to study the presence and spread of different multidrug-resistant microbes. A few small studies carried have found these bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics and even the last-resort antibiotics in fish, meat and vegetable samples collected from farms, shops, environment and households.

NCCS plans to study the samples collected at the repository to develop new antibiotics and antifungals and test the effectiveness of new drugs.

Published in The Hindu on October 13, 2018

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