Antibiotic resistance- world on cusp of post antibiotic era
The world is on the cusp of a “post-antibiotic era”, scientists have warned after finding bacteria resistant to drugs used when all other treatments have failed.
They identified bacteria able to shrug off the drug of last resort – colistin – in patients and livestock in China.
They said that resistance would spread around the world and raised the spectre of untreatable infections. It is likely resistance emerged after colistin was overused in farm animals.
Bacteria becoming completely resistant to treatment – also known as the antibiotic apocalypse – could plunge medicine back into the dark ages.
Common infections would kill once again, while surgery and cancer therapies, which are reliant on antibiotics, would be under threat.
Chinese scientists identified a new mutation, dubbed the MCR-1 gene, that prevented colistin from killing bacteria.
The report in the Lancet Infectious Diseases showed resistance in a fifth of animals tested, 15% of raw meat samples and in 16 patients.
And the resistance had spread between a range of bacterial strains and species, including E. coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
There is also evidence that it has spread to Laos and Malaysia.
Resistance to colistin has emerged before. However, the crucial difference this time is the mutation has arisen in a way that is very easily shared between bacteria.
The concern is that the new resistance gene will hook up with others plaguing hospitals, leading to bacteria resistant to all treatment – what is known as pan-resistance.
Early indications suggest the Chinese government is moving swiftly to address the problem.
New drugs are in development, such as teixobactin, which might delay the apocalypse, but are not yet ready for medical use.
A commentary in the Lancet concluded the “implications [of this study] are enormous” and unless something significant changes, doctors would “face increasing numbers of patients for whom we will need to say, ‘Sorry, there is nothing I can do to cure your infection.'”