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Superbug resistant to ALL antibiotics reaches Europe

2F105A3B00000578-3346440-A patient in Denmark has become infected with an untreatable for-a-5 1449253756211Superbugs resistant to all antibiotics have spread to Europe for the first time.

A patient in Denmark has become infected with an untreatable form of salmonella, scientists announced today. 

They also discovered untreatable bacteria in five samples of chicken imported from China via Germany.

Experts fear it is the start of a global epidemic of untreatable infections.

The Danish scientist who made the alarming discovery told the Daily Mail he would be ‘very surprised’ if the bug was not already in Britain.

The grim announcement comes just three weeks after Chinese academics discovered that superbugs had breached the last line of antibiotic defences for the first time.

The Chinese team had warned that the hyper-resistant bugs were likely to spread fast - but last night experts said the speed at which it had travelled to Europe was extremely serious.

Colistin - a drug classed as ‘critical’ to human medicine - was until recently the only antibiotic to work after all others had failed.

But experts last month identified the first germs to become resistant to the drugs - and warned of the ‘inevitable’ spread of uncontrollable superbugs which attack the blood and lungs.

They discovered mobile gene called MCR-1, which made bacteria such as E.Coli, salmonella and germs which cause pneumonia untreatable.

Critically, they found that the gene could easily be transferred to other types of bacteria, meaning it could spread quickly between animals and humans.

Experts at the Technical University of Denmark started searching for signs of the MCR-1 gene in their own country as soon as they read the Chinese report.

And, to their horror, they found six samples - five in imported chicken and one in the blood of a sick patient.

Professor Frank Møller Aarestrup, a microbiologist at the Technical University of Denmark, said today: ‘This is a very alarming discovery.

‘It is something I had feared, but hoped I would not see.’

He said the bugs had probably come from China via imported meat, or brought in by people travelling from the Far East.

2F105AD600000578-3346440-Experts fear this is the start of a global epidemic of untreatab-a-6 1449253829516But he added: ‘I would be very much surprised if it was not in the UK already.

‘It is a much bigger country than Denmark, with more travel and more food imports.’

The professor said the anonymous patient had suffered from a blood infection earlier this year, and in subsequent checks had tested positive for salmonella bacteria with the MCR-1 gene.

The patient’s current health could not be disclosed, the scientist said.

Dr Lance Price, of George Washington University in the US, who worked with the Danish team, said: ‘History shows that these mobile resistance genes can spread around the world quickly, silently riding in people, animals, and food.

‘The news that MCR-1 has been discovered in Denmark suggests that this scenario is playing out in real time.’

Leading British expert Professor Mark Enright, a microbiologist at Manchester Metropolitan University, said last night that patients infected with such superbugs would have very few treatment options.

‘Colistin is a top-shelf antibiotic – it is the antibiotic of last defence when nothing else works,’ he said.

‘This gene is going into bugs which are resistant to everything else, which is very worrying.

‘If a patient is resistant there is not a lot you could do.’

He said the only option would be to treat them with two or three extremely powerful antibiotics at the same time – in the hope that something works – but said there was no guarantee it would be effective.

Professor Enright said people are probably getting the bug by handling infected meat. But he warned that once it gets into hospitals it would be very hard to control, passing from patient to patient with ease.

‘Now that it is Europe, we can’t contain it,’ he said.

A major problem is that colistin is widely used in farming.

The more that antibiotics are used - whether in humans or animals - the easier it is for bacteria to evolve to become resistant against them.

Yet colistin was the fifth most-widely used antibiotic in European agriculture in 2010.

Dame Sally Davies, the British Government’s chief medical officer, has called for a vast reduction in the use of antibiotics in farming, in order that drugs are not rendered useless in humans.

Last year she even proposed, controversially, that sick animals be slaughtered rather than treated with the drugs. 

2F105E6200000578-3346440-Dame Sally Davies the British Government s chief medical officer-a-7 1449253934532

Dame Sally has repeated warned of the disastrous consequences of antibiotic resistance, putting it on a par with terrorism and climate change.

The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture has launched an immediate risk assessment of colistin use.

Experts last night said they were alarmed at the findings, and called for urgent restrictions of the use of colistin drugs among animals.

Dr Price said: ‘We must act swiftly to contain the spread of colistin-resistant bacteria, or we will face increasing numbers of untreatable infections. Leaders from every nation should immediately implement a ban on the use of colistin in animal agriculture.’

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association said: ‘This represents a significant milestone in the growth of antibiotic resistance in Europe and is a worrying step towards a future where the simplest of infections routinely become life-threatening.

‘Professionals from across the medical community need to work together to drastically reduce prescription rates of these life-saving drugs to ensure that they continue to work for those who need them most and that patient safety is no-longer compromised by careless overuse of antibiotics.’

Professor Neil Woodford, head of Public Health England’s antimicrobial resistance unit, said: ‘Public Health England is aware of the reports of a new colistin resistance gene from China and Denmark.

‘However, people should be reassured our current assessment is that the public health risk is very low.’

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CMLF News Issue #7
27th January 2016