Australian scientists worried by new antibiotic resistance found overseas

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 30th May 2016

PillsAustralian scientists have reacted with concern to the news that a US woman was found carrying bacteria resistant to an antibiotic called Colistin.

Colistin is only issued as a last resort when other antibiotics do not work.

In an article published in the latest issue of the Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy journal, doctors reported that a woman who experienced a urinary tract infection, from which she later recovered, was infected with a bacteria that was not able to be destroyed by antibiotics.

The doctors discovered E.coli bacteria in the woman containing the Colistin antibiotic resistant mcr-1 genre. The mcr-1 genre was only first found in China in 2015.

In Australia, Professor Michael Gillings, who is a professor of Molecular Evolution in the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University in Sydney, said bacteria has developed resistance because humans are taking antibiotics unnecessarily and through

their use as growth promoters in animals.

“They do so by collecting genes for resistance. The more genes they collect, the more resistant they are,” Professor Gillings said.
“That’s why reports of spreading resistance to the antibiotic of last resort, colistin, are so worrying,” he said.

“Estimates suggest that over 10 million people will be dying of antibiotic resistant infections every year by 2050, and that this death toll will be higher than deaths from cancer,” Professor Gillings stated.
Associate Professor Sanjaya Senanayake from the Australian National University Medical School in Canberra said the clinical history of the women suggests she possibly picked up the resistance from food.

“It is a big deal that it has been found in the United States, especially in a patient who hasn’t apparently been overseas for many months. It suggests that she has picked it up within the US, possibly from a food product, meaning that the colistin mcr-gene is already there,” Professor Senanayake said.

Concern has been growing for many years

Joe Lederman from food law consultancy FoodLegal says concern over antibiotics resistance has been mounting for at least the past decade.

In particular he says that the use of antibiotics for the purpose of enhancing animal growth should have never been permitted

Lederman referred to an article co-written with John Gao which appeared in the August 2007 edition of the FoodLegal Bulletin.

“Government and industry have failed to take up the call to tighten controls over the excessive use and abuse of antibiotics in animal production food chains as well as in the general environment through inappropriate disposal of animal waste and by-product containing antibiotics,” Lederman said.

Lederman also referred to the re-discovery of phages which were used for medical purposes in the pre-antibiotic era and which are making a comeback in medical health and food production.