Scientists are worried that a superbug could be imminent, threatening mankind.
It’s a startling discovery that is causing concern throughout the medical community: a new superbug gene has been found in a U.S. woman.
The overuse of antibiotics has long concerned scientists who fear that a superbug will eventually evolve that we won’t be able to treat, and there’s concern that a newly discovered gene in an E. coli bacteria that infected a woman may be one of the first signs of that, according to a U.S. Military HIV Research Program statement.
The gene, called mcr-1, was found in a Pennsylvania woman, although the gene could be found in pretty much any bacteria and not just the E. coli bug she had. That’s why scientists are concerned: these pieces of DNA called plasmids can be exchanged between bacteria, passing it on to different bugs and creating new virulent strains that could prove deadly and impossible to treat.
Mcr-1 in and of itself isn’t necessarily a concern, since it protects only against a rarer antibiotic called colisitin, which is only used as a last resort as it can harm the kidneys. But the gene essentially takes away that treatment option for those that need it.
In addition, the bacteria can spread quickly through hospitals and into the public, scientists warn.
“Colistin is one of the last efficacious antibiotics for the treatment of highly resistant bacteria. The emergence of a transferable gene that confers resistance to this vital antibiotic is extremely disturbing. The discovery of this gene in the U.S. is equally concerning, and continued surveillance to identify reservoirs of this gene within the military healthcare community and beyond is critical to prevent its spread,” reported Dr. Patrick McGann, MRSN, WRAI
The statement adds: “An urgent public health response is underway to contain and prevent potential spread of mcr-1. Active surveillance of multidrug resistant organisms (MDROs), such as mcr-1, allows for earlier and more accurate identification of originating sources. The collection and storage of isolates and samples in the MRSN’s growing repository helps researchers identify trends in resistance and prevalence of MDROs and provide best practices for medical providers. The repository also enables them to compare isolates from previous occurrences to better respond to future findings. Recognized as a model program by the White House, the MRSN is a key component of the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (CARB).”