Super-bug encroaching from China
A gene known as MCR-1 is becoming more common in China and has been found to make bacteria resistant to all antibiotics, including “last resort” antibiotic drugs. The gene allows bacteria to resist even harsh antibiotics or polymyxins, including Colistin, which is the antibiotic of last resort when other antibiotics have failed. MCR-1 genes are not destroyed by polymixyins, and could theoretically interact with all other infectious pathogens to allow the extensive spread of infectious diseases, with no viable medical solution at this time. The problem has intensified due to the overuse of Colistin by farmers around the world. Farmers have used large quantities of antibiotics with pigs and chickens in order to fatten them up and prevent disease, with the use of Colistin especially prevalent in China.
Experts say it might not be long before the world is struggling to cope with the spread of uncontrollable superbugs. MCR-1 seems to move easily between the strains of E. coli and other common bacteria, including Klebsiella and Pseudomonas, which cause many blood, urinary and gut infections. Chinese researchers wrote in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases that these germs will likely put people in mortal danger. Based on their horrific findings, the team predicts a return to the Dark Ages.
“These are extremely worryingly results,” according to professor and co-author on the study Liu Jian-Hua, from China’s Southern Agricultural University.
Liu and his colleagues warn that while it might seem smart to limit the use of Colistin, at this point it’s just too late. The bacteria seem to hang on to the plasmid even when the antibiotic isn’t being used, suggesting that the problem is here to stay.
It is impossible to know how soon the problem will reach U.S. shores, but there is no doubt that international commerce in all things including food products means that the problem of drug resistant “super-bugs” cannot be far distant and new methods and treatments will have to be developed to address the looming health concern.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons