2nd Pig Infected with E. Coli Bacteria Resistant to Last Resort Antibiotics, Says USDA

2nd Pig Infected with E. Coli Resistant to Last Resort Antibiotics, Says USDA

Bacteria resistant to last resort antibiotics have been found in a pig in Illinois, says USDA.

It’s the second pig discovered with the mcr-1 gene, the resistant bacterial strain, after one was detected in March in a pig at a South Carolina slaughterhouse.

The appearance of these antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” is cause for concern—harmful bacteria that resist even the strongest antibiotics can lead to widespread and untreatable infections the likes of which the World Health Organization has warned is the beginning of the “post-antibiotic era.

The E. coli was detected last month in a sample from a slaughterhouse, carrying a gene that made it “resistant to the antibiotic colistin, the drug used against particularly dangerous types of superbugs that can already withstand many other antibiotics,” reports the Washington Post.

A Pennsylvania woman tested positive for the same E. coli strain last month. She had not traveled outside the country. Officials are still trying to determine how she became infected.

“That marked the first time the colistin-resistant strain had been found in a person in the United States,” reports the Post, “raising alarms among health officials and infectious-disease experts tracking its appearance in Asia, Europe and Canada.”

Antibiotic resistance occurs in bacteria in livestock animals because antibiotics are routinely added to the animals’ feed, allowing the bacteria colonies to develop resistance. The drugs—more than 80 percent of the U.S. antibiotics stock—are added to livestock feed to help prevent disease and infection common in the close, crammed, and unsanitary conditions of today’s modern factory farms. But they’re also added to livestock feed because antibiotics can help animals put on weight more quickly, reducing the time to market weight, which means quicker profits.

“Antibiotic resistance is perhaps the single most important infectious disease threat of our time,” Beth Bell, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head of prevention and control of infectious diseases, said in a written statement.

“The identification of the mcr-1 gene vividly illustrates the domestic and global challenges of antibiotic resistance,” she said of the gene first identified last November, “and in less than six months, it has been found in a human and two animals in the U.S.”

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pig farm image via Shutterstock