The bacterium containing the mcr-1 gene, responsible for resistance to antibiotic colistin, is spreading around the world at a worrying speed.
In one area of China, as many as 25 percent of hospital patients carry this gene, scientists said at a conference of the American Society of Microbiologists.
Colistin is known to be known as the “antibiotic apocalypse,” says Sally Davies, who is in charge of health issues in England.
“Unless measures are taken to discontinue the practice that allows the spread of antibiotic resistance and there are no ways to develop new types of antibiotics, we could go back to a time when routine operations, minor injuries and common infections would be dangerous after life, “she warned.
Today, due to resistance to antibiotics, about 700,000 people die from infections. That number, however, is constantly growing and by 2050, it could reach 10 million a year. In a world in which antibiotics no longer work, many aspects of modern medicine would become impossible. For example, organ transplantation.
During the operation, therapy for immunodeficiency is necessary in order to prevent the rejection of the new organ so that the patient becomes susceptible to infection. In the future, immunosuppressants might lose their activity.
Even standard operations, such as abdominal surgery and appendicitis, would become risky. Without antibiotics that protect patients during the procedure, they will die from inflammation of the stomach lining and other infections.
“Routine surgery, implantation, cesarean section and chemotherapy will also depend on antibiotics and will also be in danger. Ordinary infections could become deadly again,” said Jonathan Pearce, head of the Infection and Immunity Department British Council for Medical Research.
The cause of the growing danger is that scientists see the abuse of antibiotics and other drugs, as well as the fact that pharmaceutical companies do not explore and develop new treatment methods.
In many countries, livestock and fish growers use antibiotics to stimulate growth, and as a consequence of the latter they come in streams and rivers, causing worrying consequences, especially in Asia. According to Sally Davies, the level of antibiotics in major rivers such as Ganga has reached alarming proportions.
The slurry of antibiotics in the waters and the land, immersed in medicines, is the ideal soil for the development of superbacteria. Rare strains that are resistant to antibiotics multiply in animals and become very powerful, causing infections that can spread around the world at a worrying speed.
Among them is tuberculosis, which once was easily treated, but in the modern form of antibiotic-resistant MDR-TB, carries 190,000 lives a year. Another, perhaps more illustrative example, is colistin.
“The colist was developed in the 1950s, but due to its toxic effects, it became unpopular among doctors, so they left it to the veterinarians. How the resistance of people to other antibiotics was spreading, the doctors were returning to the colist” explains Matthew Ewison, who teaches molecular biology at the University of Bristol.
Given that the drug was widely used to encourage the growth of poultry and pigs in Asia, they developed resistant strains that passed on to humans.
“Colistin is a cure that we have rejected and we have given them to the veterinarians, and now we expect to return it again. But the spirit has already come out of the bottle,” says Avison.