Antibiotic resistance is usually a slow-moving crisis, one of the reasons its danger can be hard to convey. Just over a year after they were discovered in China, bacteria that can fend off colistin are being found all across the world.
One by one, over the years, the drugs used to fight the most stubborn infections have fallen by the wayside as bacteria have evolved resistance to them. For certain infections, the only drug left is colistin. Then on November 18, 2015, scientists published a report in the British medical journal TheLancet: A single, easily spreadable gene makes the bacteria that carry it resistant to colistin, our antibiotic of last resort.
The recent death of a woman in Reno, Nevada, from an infection resistant to every available kind of antibiotic in the U.S. highlightshow serious the threat of antibiotic-resistant superbugs has become.
Following the discovery in the UK of bacteria that resist the most common antibiotic of last resort, a leading British expert is warning it is “almost too late” to stop a global superbug crisis.
News outlets reported Monday that UK government scientists have found a gene, known as mcr-1, that gives bacteria resistance to colistin, often used by doctors when other antibiotics fail. Such resistance was first discovered last month in China and in the past few weeks, the resistance gene has also been found in Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and in several Asian and African countries.
The rise of the so-called post-antibiotic era is widely linked to over- and misuse of antibiotics in industrial agriculture.
A resistant bacterial strain has emerged in Chinese livestock and is spreading quickly. Could this be the beginning of the end of the antibiotic era?
Widespread use of antibiotics in industrial agriculture to promote the growth of livestock and prevent disease in overcrowded factory farms has been fingered as the key culprit in the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as superbugs. Now, a heavy-hitting antibiotic that doctors have relied on as a last-ditch treatment for some of the worst superbugs appears in danger of losing its effectiveness as well—and it is losing it quickly.
The start of a new year usually brings hope and anticipation, but in the fight against resistant bacteria, 2016 begins with both alarm and optimism. Last year ended with two discouraging findings. There was the discovery—first in China and quickly thereafter on multiple continents—of a new genetic mechanism that can make “superbugs” resistant to colistin, which until now was one of the few medications doctors could still turn to fight infections. Also, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that sales of medically important antibiotics for use in food animals continued to rise in 2014, marking a 23 percent increase since 2009. Yet although the public health threat continues to grow, there are some major policies, plans, and milestones to keep your eye on this year: changes that have the potential to make a meaningful difference in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
IMAGINE if a new type of infectious bacteria were to be unleashed on the United States, one that was largely immune to current treatment. Tens of thousands of people could die each year, with the possibility of more to come.
It sounds like a science-fiction movie, but a similar situation is taking place right now. This year, it’s estimated that 23,000 Americans will die from superbugs — bacteria that are difficult or impossible to treat with antibiotics. The threat has the potential to grow dramatically, with scientists from organizations like the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warning that the spread of these superbugs threatens to take away modern medicine’s best tool for fighting dangerous infections.
So far, the U.S. government has not yet taken aggressive action on one of the least justifiable contributors to antibiotic resistance in the United States: the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms.
In the latest installment of the factory farming industry’s breeding-deadly-diseases saga, scientists have identified a new strain of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), one that is just as virulent as the original strain.
Spread from pig to pig via infected feces, which cover just about every surface of unsanitary farm facilities, PEDv is nearly 100 percent fatal and has claimed the lives of at least 8 million animals (about 10 percent of the U.S. pig population) since it was discovered in 2013.
Researchers believe the new form of the virus mutated to outpace any immunity pigs developed to the first strain. Filthy conditions on factory farms have fanned the flames and allowed the disease to spread to epidemic proportions.
In 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, more than 8,000 food products were recalled by the Food and Drug Administration, and nearly 100 were recalled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The problem touches organic foods, too.
In a recent piece, published in Bottom Line Health, Bill Marler, a lawyer specializing in food-borne illness, lists six foods he no longer eats, because he believes the risk of eating them is simply too large. The list includes raw oysters and other raw shellfish, raw or under-cooked eggs, meat that isn't well-done, unpasteurized milk and juice, and raw sprouts.
"You wouldn't believe some of the things I have learned over the years," he said. "I have some crazy stories.”...
The Hormel Foods plant in Fremont, Neb., is a sprawling complex, just across the Union Pacific tracks on the southern edge of town. Every day of the week, some 1,400 workers arrive before dawn and emerge in the midafternoon, chatting briefly in the parking lot before fanning out onto the highway. It’s a routine with few surprises, but inside the plant, a grand, if largely ignored, experiment is under way, one that is testing the limits of industrial production—and worker and food safety. Each working day, more than 10,500 hogs are slaughtered here-
A Nobel prize winning biologist warned of danger in 1945. Despite all the panic, Americans don’t face any great risk from Ebola right now. But we do need to worry about a home-grown medical catastrophe of our own that we’re failing to address: the erosion of antibiotic effectiveness.
Doctors prescribe antibiotics to treat a broad array of infections that can otherwise prove fatal. While the drugs are being grossly overused, diminishing their power to heal, hospitals aren’t to blame — factory farms are.
A deadly virus, porcine epidemic diarrhea, or PEDv, is estimated to have killed, on average, more than 100,000 piglets and young hogs each week since it first showed up in Iowa in May 2013, wreaking havoc on the pork industry.
Factory-scale farms don't just house hundreds of genetically similar animals in tight quarters over vast cesspools collecting their waste. They also house a variety of bacteria that live within those unfortunate beasts' guts. And when you dose the animals daily with small amounts of antibiotics - a common practice - the bacteria strains in these vast germ reservoirs quite naturally develop the ability to withstand anti-bacterial treatments.