The last line of antibiotic defence against some serious infections is under threat, say experts who have identified a gene that enables resistance to spread between bacteria in China.
The gene, called mcr-1, allows a range of common bacteria, including E coli, to become resistant to the last fully functional class of antibiotics, the polymyxins. This gene, they say, is widespread in bugs called Enterobacteriaceae carried by both pigs and people in south China and is likely to spread worldwide.
The gene is easily transferred from one strain of bacteria to another.Enterobacteriaceae are capable of causing a range of diseases, from pneumonia to serious blood infections. Some of the strains of Enterobacteriaceae with the gene have epidemic potential, say experts in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.
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The journal article can be found in:
The Lancet Infectious Diseases
Emergence of plasmid-mediated colistin resistance mechanism MCR-1 in animals and human beings in China: a microbiological and molecular biological study
Yi-Yun Liu et al, 2015