Quantcast

Superbug Bacteria Resistant to All Antibiotics Found in the UK

Science

Following the discovery in the UK of bacteria that resist the most common antibiotic of last resort, a leading British expert is warning it is "almost too late" to stop a global superbug crisis.

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.

UK scientists found the latest antibiotic-resistant gene in E. coli from two pig farms, in samples from a pig and two separate patients. Photo credit: NIAID / Flickr

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.

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."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE 

116 Organizations Creating a Sustainable Global Food System

First-Ever National Wild Bee Map Shows Major Decline in Crucial Agricultural Regions

Find Out if Your Eggs Are Truly Organic and Support Local Farms

5 Things Monsanto Doesn’t Want You to Know About the GMO Labeling Debate

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Yulia Lisitsa / iStock / Getty Images

By Rachael Link, MS, RD

Many people follow the lacto-vegetarian diet for its flexibility and health benefits.

Read More Show Less

By Jared Kaufman

Eating a better diet has been linked with lower levels of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. But unfortunately 821 million people — about 1 in 9 worldwide — face hunger, and roughly 2 billion people worldwide are overweight or obese, according to the U.N. World Health Organization. In addition, food insecurity is associated with even higher health care costs in the U.S., particularly among older people. To help direct worldwide focus toward solving these issues, the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals call for the elimination of hunger, food insecurity and undernutrition by 2030.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
Healthline

Made from the freshly sprouted leaves of Triticum aestivum, wheatgrass is known for its nutrient-dense and powerful antioxidant properties.

Read More Show Less

mevans / E+ / Getty Images

The federal agency that manages the Great Barrier Reef issued an unprecedented statement that broke ranks with Australia's conservative government and called for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Guardian.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

A powerful earthquake struck near Athens, Greece and shook the capital city for 15 seconds on Friday, causing people to run into the streets to escape the threat of falling buildings, NBC News reported.

Read More Show Less
U.S. government scientists concluded in a new report that last month was the hottest June on record. Angelo Juan Ramos / Flickr

By Jessica Corbett

As meteorologists warned Thursday that temperatures above 100°F are expected to impact two-thirds of the country this weekend, U.S. government scientists revealed that last month was the hottest June ever recorded — bolstering calls for radical global action on the climate emergency.

Read More Show Less
Rod Waddington / CC BY-SA 2.0

By John R. Platt

For years now conservationists have warned that many of Madagascar's iconic lemur species face the risk of extinction due to rampant deforestation, the illegal pet trade and the emerging market for the primates' meat.

Yes, people eat lemurs, and the reasons they do aren't exactly what we might expect.

Read More Show Less