A new bacteria discovered in an American patient is alarming researchers and prompting a medical journal to declare “the emergence of a truly pan-drug resistant bacteria.”
An abnormal E. coli germ was discovered in the urine of a Pennsylvanian woman undergoing treatment for symptoms resembling a urinary tract infection. Doctors found it was resistant to a powerful antibiotic called colistin, mostly used as a last-ditch effort to treat infections that have not responded to other drugs.
Other antibiotics were eventually effective in treating the bug, but what is worrying researchers is the gene that made the strain of E. coli drug resistant.
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The MCR-1 gene is what makes bacteria resistant to antibiotics like colistin. It is able to be passed from one gene to another and this is what is worrying to scientists. The fear is that E. coli with the MCR-1 gene could be passed to another mutated gene, creating a true superbug resistant to all known antibiotics.
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Dr. Tom Frieden, the director at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Washington Post this recent discovery of the first MCR-1 on E. coli in the United States has the potential to lead to one of these nightmare scenarios.
“It basically shows us that the end of the road isn’t very far away for antibiotics — that we may be in a situation where we have patients in our intensive-care units, or patients getting urinary tract infections for which we do not have antibiotics,” Frieden said.
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The easily transferable antibiotic-resistant MCR-1 gene is mostly found in livestock, possibly from the overuse of antibiotics in poultry farming, but it has most likely leaped to humans through food consumption.
The CDC has said that at least 2 million people are infected in the United States with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year and up 23,000 people die because of these infections.