Experts from Newcastle University, UK, and the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi (IIT-Delhi), sampled water and sediments at seven sites along the Upper Ganges River. They found that in May and June, when hundreds of thousands of visitors travel to Rishikesh and Haridwar to visit sacred sites. Temporary visitors from outside the region overload local waste-handling systems, which seasonally reduces water quality at the normally pristine sites. The levels of resistance genes for the superbugs were found to be 60 times higher than at other times of the year.
The findings were published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology protect people visiting and living at these sites. Likewise, they argue that preventing the spread of resistance genes that promote life-threatening bacteria could be achieved by improving waste management at key tourist sites. Much of India already suffers from severe water shortages or clean water deficits.
The specific resistance gene studied causes extreme multi-resistance in many bacteria, so researchers are concentrating on determining how it is spread. Improved sanitation and waste treatment may be key.