Bacteria that beats strongest known antibiotic found in Malaysia: Report
KUALA LUMPUR — A newly-discovered gene that creates resistance to colistin, an antibiotic known as the last-resort drug used to fight some serious infections, was recently detected in bacteria samples from Malaysia, according to a blogpost on the National Geographic.
The post by award-winning journalist Maryn McKenna said that the gene dubbed the MCR-1 was first discovered in China, where colistin is widely used to raise meat animals, but appears to be present here as well, as discovered in the European Molecular Biology Laboratory.
Ms McKenna, a writer that specialises in topics on public health and food policy, did not discuss further details on the discovery, however.
She explained that it was in 2013 during an ongoing project by Chinese researchers to find resistance to the E.coli bacterium in animals, that the colistin-resistant bacteria was first detected in a pig from an intensive farm in Shanghai.
The research was later expanded to include tests on retail meat sold in supermarkets and street markets and MCR-1 was found to be present in 15 per cent of 523 samples of raw pork and chicken meat; 21 per cent of 804 pigs in slaughterhouses; and 1 per cent of 1,322 samples from hospital patients with infections.
Last week, Ms McKenna said, researchers from several Chinese, British and US universities confirmed in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal the discovery of this new form of antibiotic resistance, which has not only been found in animals and in people, but is causing human infections and may now be spreading across the globe.
“This is very bad news,” the Brandeis University’s Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism senior fellow wrote in the National Geographic blogpost from November 21.
Explaining further, Ms McKenna said although regarded as a “last ditch” antibiotic due to its toxicity, healthcare providers have had to rely on colistin for treatments in recent years because antibacterial resistance has been on the rise.
The journalist added that because the drug, first introduced in 1959, is cheap, it is often used as additives to animal feed as it helps the creatures build muscle mass faster, apart from protecting them from other conditions related to intensive farming.
“Driven largely by China, the global demand for colistin in agriculture is expected to reach 11,942 tonnes per annum by the end of 2015 (with associated revenues of US$229·5 million), rising to 16,500 tonnes by the year 2021, at an average annual growth rate of 4.75 per cent,” she wrote, quoting from the journal.