Superbug Bacteria Resistant to All Antibiotics Found in the UK
News outlets reported Monday that UK government scientists have found a gene, known as mcr-1, that gives bacteria resistance to colistin, often used by doctors when other antibiotics fail. Such resistance was first discovered last month in China and in the past few weeks, the resistance gene has also been found in Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and in several Asian and African countries.
The rise of the so-called post-antibiotic era is widely linked to over- and misuse of antibiotics in industrial agriculture.
Public Health England found colistin-resistance in 15 of the 24,000 bacterial samples it keeps on record from cases between 2012 and 2015, including samples of salmonella and E. Coli.
According to the Soil Association's Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics campaign, scientists found the mcr-1 gene in E. coli from two pig farms, in samples from a pig and two separate patients. The E. coli from the human patients were also resistant to the critically important cephalosporin antibiotics, the Alliance noted. Meanwhile, the colistin gene was also found in 10 human salmonella infections and in salmonella from an imported sample of poultry meat.
The gene is reportedly found on mobile pieces of DNA, which means it can jump from farm-animal bacteria into bacteria causing human infections.
"The Rise of the Superbug" Prof Colin Garner on increase of antibiotic resistant infections https://t.co/wFBYCz59oF https://t.co/CUiaos7EfH— The London Economic (@The London Economic)1450177701.0
As the BBC wrote, "The concern is that colistin-resistance will now find its way into other superbugs to create infections that doctors cannot treat."
Indeed, Antibiotic Research UK director David Brown told the Press Association on Tuesday: "It is almost too late. We needed to start research 10 years ago and we still have no global monitoring system in place."
"I think we have got a 50-50 chance of salvaging the most important antibiotics but we need to stop agriculture from ruining it again," he said.
The Alliance to Save our Antibiotics echoed that call, with the group's scientific adviser Cóilín Nunan demanding the UK government "respond urgently" to the crisis.
"The routine preventative use in farming of colistin and all antibiotics important in human medicine, needs to be banned immediately," Nunan declared.
But Brown said it would take more than legislation to turn the tide. "When the public start demanding meat that has not seen antibiotics—because they understand that the meat may contain antibiotic resistant bacteria—only then will real progress be made," he argued. "We need education about the threat."
Meanwhile, in the U.S., superbugs kill at least 23,000 Americans every year "and the problem is only getting worse," wrote Anya Vanecek, public health digital campaigner for U.S. PIRG, in a blog post on Monday.
As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) own accounting showed in a report issued earlier this month, the sale and use of antibiotics for food-producing animals is actually on the rise, despite decades of warnings from scientists and health experts and the FDA's imposition of voluntary guidelines meant to lower the use of antibiotics on livestock and poultry.
Calling on the agency to "set a stronger, more meaningful plan to combat antibiotic resistance at one of its primary origins," PIRG's antibiotics program director Bill Wenzel wrote: "We now have definitive evidence that as long as producers are permitted to use antibiotics for disease prevention in animals that are not sick, antibiotics misuse on farms will continue."
"More must be done," he concluded. "Nothing less than a ban on the routine and unnecessary use of antibiotics on livestock and poultry will halt this trend and ensure that our life-saving medicines can remain effective for generations to come."
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<div id="13077" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="11b9fe5ff48ebc437353df6df9c2c892"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1305915938148147205" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Just a week before the Trump administration issued an executive order aimed at keeping meat packing plants open, th… https://t.co/DkbXgPm4YR</div> — ProPublica (@ProPublica)<a href="https://twitter.com/propublica/statuses/1305915938148147205">1600189597.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="36e4c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e7c8048c2755109629a3b3072fcb3261"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1304424041814593539" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Meatpacking union @UFCW, which reps workers at this plant (four of whom died), slams OSHA for the small $13k fine a… https://t.co/tnhfKd89ab</div> — Dave Jamieson (@Dave Jamieson)<a href="https://twitter.com/jamieson/statuses/1304424041814593539">1599833901.0</a></blockquote></div><p>The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents Smithfield Foods workers, <a href="https://www.argusleader.com/story/news/crime/2020/09/10/osha-fines-smithfield-foods-sioux-falls-south-dakota/5768786002/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=f7bf3f03-ce98-4df4-9c45-f44d9a6a5890" target="_blank">slammed</a> the fine as "insulting and a slap on the wrist."</p><p>"How much is the health, safety, and life of an essential worker worth? Based on the actions of the Trump administration, clearly not much," said UFCW president Marc Perrone.</p><p>"This so-called 'fine' is a slap on the wrist for Smithfield, and a slap in the face of the thousands of American meatpacking workers who have been putting their lives on the line to help feed America since the beginning of this pandemic," Perrone added. </p><p>Other critics, including vegans, vegetarians, and animal rights and environmental advocates argued that the accelerated spread of Covid-19 from meatpacking facilities is but the latest compelling argument in favor of reducing—or eliminating—meat consumption.</p><p>"We know that Covid-19 originated in a meat market and that previous influenza viruses originated in pigs and chickens," People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) <a href="https://www.peta.org/blog/meat-shortage-slaugherhouses-go-vegan/" target="_blank">said</a> in April amid news that a Foster Farms slaughterhouse in Livingston, California was <a href="https://www.peta.org/blog/coronavirus-covid-19-slaughterhouse-meat-concerns/?utm_source=PETA::Twitter&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=0420::veg::PETA::Twitter::Workers%20Blame%20Major%20Pig%20Slaughterhouse%20600%20Infected%20COVID-19::::tweet" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ordered closed</a> by local health authorities due to a Covid-19 outbreak that killed eight employees.</p>
<div id="28490" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="48ddd3480a2beb42597d9516ef652f0f"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1252416495990140929" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS! @SmithfieldFoods allegedly took NO PRECAUTIONS to protect the safety of its workers, leaving o… https://t.co/viAJ026pLy</div> — PETA (@PETA)<a href="https://twitter.com/peta/statuses/1252416495990140929">1587434336.0</a></blockquote></div><p>"It's not a matter of <em>whether</em> using and killing animals for food will give rise to another disease outbreak—it's a matter of <em>when</em>," said PETA. "There has never been a better, more obvious time for businesses to put an end to their dirty trade of slaughtering animals for their flesh." </p>
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