Doctors are citing the ‘post-antibiotic era’ has arrived and that we’re not adequately prepared.

Doctors have identified bacteria that can ‘shrug off’ colistin – the medication most commonly used as a last resort (when all other therapies have failed) for infections and disease in the human body.

The threat has recently emerged after colistin was over-used in farm animal testing.

Chinese scientists have now identified this new mutation as the MCR-1 gene, which can prevent colistin from killing bacteria. Although common infections would be killed through other medication, surgeries and cancer therapies reliant on antibiotics are now under threat.

Concerns of bacteria becoming completely resistant to treatment could result in medicines having to recreate new antibiotics and treatments to tackle existing and new bacteria.

Professor Timothy Walsh from the University of Cardiff, UK, who collaborated on the study of the resisting bacteria explained, “All the key players are now in place to make the post-antibiotic world a reality”.

“If MCR-1 becomes global, which is a case of when not if, and the gene aligns itself with other antibiotic resistance genes, which is inevitable, then we will have very likely reached the start of the post-antibiotic era.”

A merge between resistance and colistin has occurred previously, however, on this occasion, the mutation has risen in a way that is very easily shared between bacteria, resulting in global spread. To date, it has extended from China to Malaysia and Laos, including seven per cent of untreatable Gonorrhoea cases in Toronto.

Professor Mark Wilcox, from Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has encountered multiple cases in his hospital, stating, “We’re struggling to find an antibiotic” every month. An event he describes as being as “rare as hens’ teeth” five years ago. He believes “we’re losing the battle” between bacteria and antibiotics.

Prof Walsh is meeting both the Agricultural and Health Ministries this weekend to determine whether colistin should be banned for agricultural purposes.

Global action must be taken to avoid increasing numbers of patients visiting their doctors for help and their doctors having to acknowledge that there is nothing they can do to cure their infections.

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