Scientists in the UK have discovered bacteria that are resistant to a form of antibiotic called colistin. This discovery is of the utmost significance as colistin is often given to patients as a last resort.
Last month, resistant bacteria were identified in China and experts warned that the discovery marked the beginning of a ‘post-antibiotic era’. At the time, scientists thought it would take up to three years for other countries to be affected, but just one month on, resistant bacteria has been found in the UK. It has been confirmed that samples of the resistant bacteria have been found on three pig farms and also in laboratory samples taken from humans with infections.
After a discovery was made in China, Public Health England and the Animal and Plant Agency initiated a testing process in the UK, which involved 24,000 bacterial samples. Testing uncovered 15 samples containing colistin-resistant bacteria and samples tested included salmonella and E.coli.
Bacteria have already been identified in other European and African countries and will not come as a great shock to health agencies, but it does present cause for concern because it increases the risk of untreatable bacterial infections. Once the DNA is affected and the mcr-1 gene is present, colisitin-resistance can spread from one species to another very quickly and experts are worried that resistance will somehow spread to other super-bugs, preventing doctors from being able to treat affected patients.
Professor Alan Johnson from Public Health England is keen to stress that the risk to public health is very low, but further research and ongoing assessment is required. In the meantime, public health experts recommended ensuring that all food is cooked properly.