Doctors Sound Alarm Over Antibiotic Apocalypse

Doctors Sound Alarm Over Antibiotic Apocalypse.

In November 2015, mcr -1—a gene that can make bacteria resistant to colistin, an old antibiotic that is the last-resort drug for some multidrug-resistant infections—was reported in China. The mcr -1 gene is on a plasmid, a small piece of DNA that is able to move from one bacterium to another. The gene has the potential to quickly spread to other bacteria and raises the possibility that bacteria already resistant to major antibiotics could become resistant to colistin as well. If colistin resistance spreads to bacteria that are already resistant to all other antibiotics, those bacteria could cause truly untreatable infections. We cannot keep bacteria from changing; bacteria will inevitably find ways of resisting the antibiotics developed by humans. However, less than six months after the first identification of mcr -1 in China, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and USDA identified the gene in bacteria cultured from a Pennsylvania patient and retrospectively from the intestinal samples of two pigs, one in South Carolina and the other in Illinois. This discovery emphasised the importance of a coordinated public health response, not only to detect new threats like mcr -1, but also to track, slow, and respond to the emergence of antibiotic resistance. Although there is no immediate threat to the public, the discovery of mcr -1 vividly illustrates the many domestic and global challenges facing us as we work to slow the spread of antibiotic resistance and improve antibiotic use. New resistant bacteria continue to emerge with the potential to severely impact our ability to provide medical treatment. Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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