Alarming new superbug gene emerges around the globe

18th of January 2016
Alarming new superbug gene emerges around the globe

A new antibiotic-resistant superbug has emerged around the globe and is spreading alarm in medical circles.

The MCR-1 gene renders E. coli and some other bacteria resistant to colistin, an antibiotic considered the drug of last resort for some infections and diseases.

The gene first came to light in China in November 2015 and scientists in other countries then reassessed lab sample archives to gather more clues about its spread. The gene has now been discovered in at least 17 countries including Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Thailand and Canada.

Colistin is commonly used for raising food animals and French researchers have detected the resistant MCR-1 gene in 94 farms dating back from 2005 onwards. This suggests that dissemination first began more than a decade ago.

Taken with other reports, the findings support a need to limit the spread of MCR-1 by scaling back the use of colistin in animals according to the French team.

While the most recent reports have involved the presence of the gene in livestock it has also been discovered in humans including a German patient, a Cambodian child hospitalised in 2012 and an elderly Swiss man with no history of overseas travel.

Meanwhile in Canada, MCR-1 has emerged in a woman from Ottawa who was treated for an intestinal disorder in 2011. Director of infection control at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto Dr Allison McGeer has been urging Canadian people to wash their hands at least five times a day to help protect themselves from MCR-1.

And she adds that besides proper hand hygiene, factors such as more careful use of antibiotics; more private patient rooms and fewer surgical and treatment complications could all help to lessen the concern.



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