Over the past few weeks, you may have heard about MCR-1, a gene that turns bacteria such as E. coli into antibiotic-resistant superbugs. It was originally discovered in China, but now the terrifying sounding gene has been detected in Canada.
So far, Canadian MCR-1 has been found in three samples. One in an Ottawa hospital patient, and two in Ontario ground beef.
What’s scary abut MCR-1 is that it causes bacteria to become resistant to all of our antibiotics, even our most powerful one called colistin (a toxic drug which is used as a last resort to treat disease). And the worst part is that there are no new drugs that will be able to fight it off coming to market anytime soon.
According to Gerry Wright, director of the Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster University, “It’s not only that certain strains of bacteria become resistant. Once the genie is out of the bottle, once they start moving around, then it becomes very, very challenging to contain. And so the question we have to ask ourselves is where’s it going to end up next?”
“We’re now approaching a situation where we could be facing some germs that we just simply can’t treat with the available antibiotics,” he added.
The worst part about the MCR-1 gene is that we would have no idea if we were carrying it.
“Unless you’re actually being treated for an infection, you could carry these genes and not even know about it,” explains Wright. “The bacteria in your gut might just have them.”
Wright says that we shouldn’t panic, but we should be concerned that MCR-1 could prevent life-saving antibiotics from serving there purpose.