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This Fight Will Be Against Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Written by Rose Torrento on Tuesday, November 22, 2016 Posted in Industry News


In November 2015, researchers discovered a colistin-resistant E. coli bacterium strain, and since then, people around the world have begun a proactive search, trying to locate instances of colistin-resistant bacteria.

Scientists released nearly 100 reports on the strain, which researchers have found in more than two dozen countries — including the U.S. — in pets, livestock, seagulls, and even people. In May, doctors found a colistin-resistant strain of E. coli a woman patient, the first human-borne instance of such resistance found in the U.S.

Why the concern?

The number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria could grow over the next few years, and researchers have been concerned — but they’re also expecting the day when a completely drug-resistant strain could emerge. According to the National Geographic articles, colistin hasn’t been used regularly since the 1950s because it’s toxic and, therefore, is considered the last weapon against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. However, as it was less-prescribed for humans, it became more widely used within the livestock industry — allowing the bacterium to develop colistin resistance.

Researchers have found this resistance, called mcr-1, in numerous places, including China. Furthering their concern is the how mcr-1 antibiotic resistance is passed from one bacterium strain to another — it’s the first incidence of plasmid resistance — meaning it can transfer its resistance to other bacteria or vice-versa. Either way will end with the same result: bacteria resistant to all antibiotics.

According to the ABC News article, another issue is that pharmaceutical companies are not properly incentivized to create new antibiotics because of the high resistance incident rates. Drug company leaders found that investing the resources needed to create new antibiotics has a limited return as bacteria quickly develop resistance to new antibiotics.

Combatting a super superbug

Superbug DangerTo combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria, some researchers and healthcare providers are calling for physicians to stop prescribing antibiotics as freely. Allowing patients’ bodies to naturally overcome minor bacterial infections can help reduce the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Another tactic is to limit the use of antibiotics in livestock at food production facilities, although it could take some time to put the proper regulations in place to ensure that antibiotics are not overused.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Agriculture, and Food and Drug Administration personnel are working together to track and combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans, meat, and food livestock, especially those that are colistin-resistant. Each of these strategies is a small step toward avoiding or combatting a disaster that is bound to happen. Until researchers find a way to stop it, bacteria resistant to all antibiotics is one of the greatest threats of the near future.

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About the Author

Rose Torrento

Rose Torrento

Rosemarie Torrento has worked in health care for more than 26 years, beginning as a registered nurse in 1988. Early in her nursing career, Torrento worked as a freelance contract nurse before accepting a position in nursing administration. During her 17-year tenure in that role, she oversaw nursing employment and travel nurse contracting at a Level 1 Trauma Hospital in Michigan. Understanding the challenges travel nurses faced, Torrento founded Health Providers Choice Inc. (HPC) in 2003. Through Torrento’s extensive experience and her role as President and CEO, HPC provides travel placement of registered nurses and allied health professionals to hospital systems nationally.