Via STAT, Helen Branswell writes: Superbug resistant to last-resort antibiotics turns up in Europe. Excerpt:
Researchers in Denmark announced Thursday that they had found several samples of E. coli bacteria that are resistant to the antibiotic of last resort, just two weeks after Chinese researchers revealed they had found a similarly resistant strain.
The announcement means the form of the bacteria has spread beyond just one region of the globe. To the surprise of scientists, it has also been circulating for some time. The earliest of the Danish samples showing this resistance pattern dates back to 2012.
One of the samples containing the resistance gene, known as mcr-1, was collected from a man who had not traveled outside of Denmark, meaning he picked up the resistant bacteria there. But five samples of the bacteria were recovered from poultry imported to Denmark from Germany. All were resistant to colistin, a drug that has been designated as critically important for human medicine.
Frank Aarestrup, a professor from Denmark’s National Food Institute, said it’s not currently known whether the poultry was produced in Germany or imported and redistributed from there.
Colistin resistance has been seen before, but not in this form. What makes this situation unique — and unsettling — is that the gene that makes the bacteria colistin-resistant is contained in a plasmid, a mobile piece of DNA. Plasmids can easily move from one bacterium to another, creating the likelihood this form of resistance could spread widely.
Antibiotic resistance expert Lance Price called the new finding alarming.
“History shows that these mobile resistance genes can spread around the world quickly, silently riding in people, animals, and food. The news that mcr-1 has been discovered in Denmark suggests that this scenario is playing out in real time,” said Price, who is director of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center at George Washington University in Washington.