Serum Institute: We are nearing the end of the antibiotic era

Alarm bells ringing following mcr-1 gene find in the US

The discovery of an antibiotic-resistant super-bacteria in the US spells the end of the antibiotic era, according to the State Serum Institute (SSI).

SSI is particularly concerned about the carbapenem-resistant bacteria as it is not affected at all by typical types of antibiotics – aside from colistin.

“We are very worried about them because carbapenems are some of our most used antibiotics for seriously-ill people,” Ute Wolff Sönksen, a doctor at the SSI reference lab for antibiotic resistance, told Ingeniøren newspaper.

“If the bacteria infect each other and become resistant to carbapenems and colistin, then we can say we are nearing the end of the antibiotic era.”

The dire outlook comes in the wake of a 49-year-old woman in Pennsylvania being infected with an E-coli bacteria that contained the mcr-1 gene, which means it is not only resistant to the ‘last option’ antibiotics, colistin, but it could also ‘infect’ other bacteria so they would have the same capability.

This is possible because its capability is connected to a so-called plasmid and not the chromosomes of the bacteria.

READ MORE: MRSA found in maternity ward at Danish hospital

A global problem
In the case of the woman in the US, the bacteria succumbed to other types of bacteria, but researchers and doctors fear that mcr-1’s ability to spread to other bacteria will quickly exacerbate the problem.

The mrc-1 gene was found in a Danish patient last year and has also been seen in China, Vietnam, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Thailand, Laos, the UK, Germany and Switzerland.

“We are doing a lot to avoid resistance here in Denmark by co-operating with the agriculture sector about not using the same antibiotics humans use for their animals, but we can’t do it alone,” said Sönksen.

“We are talking about a global problem because the bacteria spread across borders. In that way, one could say that the silver lining of the US case is that the problem is getting so much attention.”

Last week, the British government released a comprehensive report (here in English) on the problem and which steps should be taken to curb it.