In China a superbug that is resistant to a last resort antibiotic is on the rise. A new study revealed a worrying development as a wide variety of E. coli bacteria were discovered to have developed resistance to Colistin. A second study released on Friday found the superbug is still uncommon in Chinese hospitals. The gene known as mcr-1 which has the capacity to move from one bacterium to another was found in 1 percent of Klebsiella pneumonia, a variety of E. coli bacteria. This bacteria can cause pneumonia, infections of the bloodstream and wound infections.
Lance Prince, director of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center at George Washington University was not reassured with the development although incidence were described as rare. Prince says that even though 1 percent does not sound a large number, bring drug resistance into the equation makes the number pretty substantial.
The mcr-1 gene makes bacteria resistant to treatment with a drug called colistin. The drug is an old antibiotic that has not seen much use because of its unpleasant side effects. The newer drugs were better choices. However, microbe developing resistance to newer drugs is on the rise and colistin has taken an increasing importance in medicine.
In most countries, the use of colistin is reserved for human use and only when the drug is absolutely needed in treatment. However, In China, the antibiotic has been used in agriculture to speed growth of animals raised for meat.
In November 2015, scientists reported finding mcr-1 in China. Alarms across the world were raised and within a short span of time, researchers in other parts of the world revealed that they had looked and found the gene in their stored bacteria collections. What alarms scientists is that mcr-1 can move easily from one bacteria to another and from a family like E. coli to others such as Klebsiella pneumoniae as reported in an article by the Scientific American.
Health officials have worried that colistin-resistant bacteria might spread and will set a stage for superbug infections that would be resistant to medications. However, only a number of such cases have been detected worldwide including the United States. Rising concerns prompted the United Nations to encourage countries to cut back on the use of antibiotics and to develop new drugs.
People who are infected with drug resistant strains can be treated with current antibiotics, but doctors warn that as these bacteria become resistant to newer antibiotics, it may become impossible to treat as the superbugs are already resistant to the last resort treatment using colistin to fight off infection as reported in an article by Richmond Times-Dispatch.