Scientists have discovered a new strain of bacteria that is resistant to all current antibiotics and has the ability to infect other bacteria, according to News.com.au. MCR-1 E.coli doesn't just infect other bacteria; it also strengthens them by giving them the same antibiotic defenses that it possesses. First discovered in China a few weeks ago in a pig, it was later found in Denmark, Germany and Malaysia.
"It was a problem when we heard they were found in China a couple of weeks ago but one had hoped that it would just be in China and wouldn't spread too quickly but they have now found it in Denmark," said Sanjaya Senanayake from ANU College of Medicine, Biology and Environment. "These are very bad superbugs to have."
The bug has been linked to imported meats and will likely stimulate the mandatory testing of food imports in some areas of the world, according to ABC News.
Another troubling finding about MCR-1 E.coli is the fact that it spreads its genes through horizontal gene transfer in a colistin-resistant manner, meaning that the bacteria share their genetic material directly with one another as opposed to through generations, according to Discover. This gives the bacteria the ability to spread through populations very quickly.
Although developing new antibiotics is crucial, it is also important to prescribe them less and decrease our reliance on them, according to Senanayake.
"The chief medical officer in the UK recognized antibiotic resistance as a catastrophic threat and wanted it put into the international register of civil emergencies along with terrorism and natural disasters," he said. "I think that is a positive thing that top people in government are starting to recognize it as a big problem."