Superbug Discovered: MCR-1 Bacteria Gene Found In 10 Countries Around The Globe

A superbug gene, MCR-1, found in a New York patient is a severely strong bacteria that is resistant to colistin. The colistin medication is often referred to as the "last resort" drug and is used only when a patient has not responded to typical medications and is in dire need of an antibiotic to fight off a bacteria overtaking the body.

The MCR-1 superbug was found in a sample of E. coli taken from the New York patient last year, a new study published in the Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy journal of the American Society for Microbiology revealed. Colistin is rarely used to treat patients when drugs like the ultra-strong, Enterobacteriaceae, have failed.

The E. coli with MCR-1 gene has also been found in a sample taken from a Pennsylvania woman. The female patient had not recently traveled outside of the United States. Where and how she became infected with the potentially deadly bacteria is still not known.

Medical and health experts in the United States have deemed the discovery of the MCR-1 gene exceptionally "disturbing," Cubic Lane reports. The deadly bacteria reportedly exists on a plasmid, a DNA molecule that can autonomously transfer the illness from one species to another. The potential rapid transfer of MCR-1, coupled with no effective vaccine to thwart the spread, could lead to an epidemic or worldwide pandemic.

Researchers currently studying the superbug for SENTRY, a global microbial monitoring program, have so far tested 13,526 E. coli samples and nearly 7,500 Klebsiella pneumoniae samples. All of the test samples were reportedly collected in Europe, North America, the Asia-Pacific region, and Latin America, in 2015.

Some believe conditions at factory farms could be playing a significant role in the development and spread of the superbug.

During their study, the researchers found 390 of the bacteria strains were resistant to colistin. A total of 19 of the samples tested so far carry the MCR-1 gene. Although the colistin-resistant and superbug samples only amount to a small percentage of the overall findings, the ease of transmission of the bacteria could allow the deadly infection to spread quickly around the country -- and around the globe.

The 19 MCR-1 positive samples were found in 10 different countries. The researchers involved in the SENTRY study have not yet released the names of the countries where the superbug bacteria were found. No plans to share the information with the public have yet been revealed.

JMI Research Director of Microbiology Mariana Castanheira said the New York sample containing the superbug gene has proven susceptible to some new antimicrobial agents. Carbapenem is one of the drugs recently approved for use in fighting "Gram-negative" bacteria.

While Castanheira said the current strains stand a lesser chance of causing difficult-to-treat infections now that new drugs have been approved for use, the MCR-1 gene is still causing fear in the medical community. The Iowa microbiologist also noted the concern stems from the bacteria's ability to transmit its colistin resistance to other types of bacteria.

The MCR-1 superbug gene was first found and isolated in China late last year. The bacteria was found in both humans and farm livestock. Once researchers began studying and looking for other occurrences of the gene, they found infected patients in both Canada and Europe.

This ability to transmit could increase the risk of new strains of bacteria developing that are resistant to all antibiotics, according to a CDC report.

What do you think about the discovery of the new superbug and the potential impact it can have on the world?

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