The world may be rapidly heading for a post anti-microbial era. An article published in the June edition of Anti-Microbial Agents and Chemotherapy has alerted the world to a mutated bacterium that can resist even the most powerful anti-biotics in our arsenal.
Before the widespread use of penicillin, the leading cause of death for humanity was infection. That has dropped precipitously since 1928. Now, in the USA, life threatening infections sweep through care facilities and kill about 23 000 Americans each year.
Times are about to change again. Medical practitioners have been warning the world for the past few decades that we are rapidly running through our available anti-microbials. Penicillin is no longer effective in stopping many infections than it did in the 1940s. More modern anti-microbials are losing their effectiveness and now, even the last, best defense has been attacked.
The anti-biotic Colistin has been the last, best hope for seriously ill people. Researchers at Sir Walter Reed Hospital have isolated an E. coli bacterium from a person with a urinary tract infection. The bacterium carried a gene that helped it resist dying when exposed to Colistin.
Bacteria have the ability to incorporate foreign genes into their own make-up and can be found to harbour many anti-biotic genes. The big three in this department are E. coli, Clostridium difficile and Staphlococcus aureus but they are not alone. Resistant TB is becoming a spreading problem for world health providers.
This new nightmare gene dubbed mcr-1 was first isolated in China last year from a pig that had an E. coli infection. The person with the urinary tract infection that presented the same gene had not travelled outside of the US within the past five months so the actual prevalence of mcr-1 is not known.
While people are urged to refrain from antibiotic use unless they are absolutely necessary, the agricultural industry is in fact the largest user. During the Green Revolution it was discovered that routinely feeding some animals an anti-microbial supplement made the animals grow bigger and faster. With the advent of factory farming of animals with many animals crammed into dirty and crowded conditions, the drugs became necessary to keep the animals alive until slaughtered.
Currently in the US and Canada it is estimated that 70 to 80% of antibiotics developed for human health are being used in agriculture. Tighter regulations are gradually being implemented in N. America, but many countries neither track nor control the dissemination of anti-biotics.
Medical News Today
Journal of Anti-Microbial Agents and Chemotherapy
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