Scientists find a bacteria immune to antibiotics
For years, antibiotics have been a reliable remedy for illness, but scientists recently have expressed concerns the medicine won’t be able to help cure some common infections.
Researchers found bacteria in China immune to the effects of colistin, an antibiotic used to treat some bacterial infections, and are warning this type of antibiotic resistance could spread around the world.
The mutation that proved resistant to colistin, the MCR-1 gene, was found in 20 percent of animals tested, 16 percent of patients and 15 percent of raw meat samples, according to a report in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
“Antibiotic resistance is a serious problem,” says Dr. Mandavi Kulkarni, infectious disease physician at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “The overuse and misuse of antibiotics over the past several years are chief causes of this threatening issue.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antibiotics are prescribed incorrectly or unnecessarily up to 50 percent of the time. The use of antibiotics in food-producing animals for reasons other than treating infectious disease, like to stimulate growth, also contributed to the spread of antibiotic resistance in humans.
The CDC outlines four core actions to fight antibiotic resistance:
- Prevent infections by preventing the spread of resistance – Avoiding infection in the first place helps to reduce the risk and eliminates the spread of resistant bacteria.
- Gather data to track antibiotic-resistant infections – Experts are constantly understanding the cause and why people received the resistant infection so that they can develop better strategies for prevention.
- Improve antibiotic stewardship – Up to 50 percent of antibiotic use in humans is unnecessary and inappropriately prescribed. People need to be committed to using antibiotics appropriately and safely and only when needed.
- Develop new drugs and diagnostic tests – Because antibiotic resistance occurs as part of a natural process in which bacteria evolve, it can be slowed but not stopped. New antibiotics are always needed to keep up with resistant bacteria, as well as new diagnostic tests to track the development of resistance.
“The spread of antibiotic resistance could make illnesses we currently consider easy to treat extremely difficult to cure,” Dr. Kulkarni says. “Health care professionals and those in the agriculture industry must be more responsible when using or prescribing antibiotics and the public needs to be educated about when antibiotics are necessary. For instance, antibiotics are useful when treating bacterial infections, but not when treating viral infections.”
To prevent infections, Dr. Kulkarni recommends washing hands frequently and getting all necessary immunizations.
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