Researchers Find Superbug Gene Spreading in Chinese Hospitals

Sputnik News – January 29, 2017

A gene that promotes bacterial resistance to last-resort antibiotics has been revealed to be worryingly prevalent in Chinese hospitals, according to research presented in two new studies in The Lancet January 27.

The MCR-1 gene was first identified in China in 2015 in Escherichia coli bacteria samples from pigs, pork, and a few human cases, and has since been found in more than 30 countries, including the United States, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reports.

The gene can spread on mobile pieces of DNA that can hop within bacteria families and from one type of bacteria to another. Its sudden prevalence is blamed on the use of the antibiotic colistin in Chinese agriculture over decades. (China banned the drug from animal feed last year.)

Colistin is one of the few remaining antibiotics that can be used to treat multidrug-resistant bacteria. Though MCR-1 has so far rarely been found in humans, its spread would mean that it could eventually run into bacteria with genes that make them resistant to other drugs as well, creating infections that are almost totally impossible to treat.