The MCR-9 gene, which causes bacteria to be resistant to colistin, one of the world’s most important antibiotics, has been detected in sewer water in Georgia, according to researchers from the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety. 

The MCR-9 gene is a concern for public health safety because it causes antimicrobial resistance. Antimicrobial resistance and combating drug resistance is one of the top 10 public health threats facing humanity, according to The World Health Organization

Center for Food Safety researchers — including Jouman Hassan, David Mann and Xiangyu Deng — led by College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences assistant professor Issmat Kassem collected sewage water from an “urban setting” in Georgia to test for the MCR gene in naturally present bacteria, Morganella morganii. 

Kassem, whose research focuses on the worldwide presence of MCR, said the team was surprised to detect the gene in the first sample they took. Kassem said this demonstrates the establishment of the MCR gene in the U.S. 

However, this was the first time the MCR gene was found in the M. morganii bacteria, which poses a bigger concern because it is a bacteria not often tested by researchers, according to Kassem. This means the possible global threat of the MCR gene could be more widespread. 

“If we don’t tackle it right now, we are jeopardizing human and animal medicine as we know it and that can have huge repercussions on health and the economy,” Kassem said. “It’s a dangerous problem that requires attention from multiple sectors for us to be able to tackle it properly.”

The MCR gene can transmit to other types of bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella that commonly cause human outbreaks, turning them from treatable illnesses to potentially deadly infections, according to the Center for Food Safety study. 

Kassem said that this is a serious problem requiring “immediate action” from industries including research, healthcare and government to work for a solution. 

Source: The Red and Black


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