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Antibiotic resistance is on the rise, and our world is on the cusp of the post-antibiotic era.

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The world is on the cusp of a "post-antibiotic era", scientists have warned after finding bacteria resistant to drugs used when all other treatments have failed.

They identified bacteria able to shrug off the drug of last resort - colistin - in patients and livestock in China.

They said that resistance would spread around the world and raised the spectre of untreatable infections.

It is likely resistance emerged after colistin was overused in farm animals.

Bacteria becoming completely resistant to treatment - also known as the antibiotic apocalypse - could plunge medicine back into the dark ages.

Common infections would kill once again, while surgery and cancer therapies, which are reliant on antibiotics, would be under threat.

Chinese scientists identified a new mutation, dubbed the MCR-1 gene, that prevented colistin from killing bacteria.

The report in the Lancet Infectious Diseases showed resistance in a fifth of animals tested, 15% of raw meat samples and in 16 patients.

And the resistance had spread between a range of bacterial strains and species, including E. coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

There is also evidence that it has spread to Laos and Malaysia.

Prof Timothy Walsh, who collaborated on the study, from the University of Cardiff, told the BBC News website: "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.

Top Reddit comments:

Anyone read this article and get depressed?

Well here's some hope for you. Antibiotics come from culturing microbes in the lab and identifying antimicrobial compounds they make naturally. In the entire history of microbiology we've only been able to culture about 5% of these in the lab.

Two years ago we figured out why (mostly - we can culture about 50% of all species now). We already have identified one new class of antibiotics since. Before that, it had been decades since another new class of antibiotics had been identified. This coupled with the high throughput techniques developed in the last few years suggests that we will probably find more relatively quickly as compared to the last few decades.

Let's just hope we use the new ones more responsibly than last time!


I think he's referencing the new 'in-situ' soil culturing that they came up with a couple of years ago. Essentially, it involves placing a plate of microwells on top of a soil sample- the wells are so small that they usually only have 1-2 types of bacteria present in them. With different culture techniques, they have been able to grow a lot of these bacteria in their native habitat that are really difficult (read: impossible) to grow in a lab with traditional techniques.


I just did a lit review on this subject, so here is a source detailing in situ cultivation.

So not all hope is lost.

Another good Reddit comment:

Until last month I was still pessimistic about our chances of avoiding the antibiotics nightmare. But that changed when I attended a workshop in Beijing on a new approach to antibiotic development based on bacteriocins – protein antibiotics produced by bacteria to kill closely related species, and exquisitely narrow-spectrum.

My research over 37 years involved the study of a number of bacteriocins that can kill a range of clinically important bacteria. I – and many other researchers – did not believe they could be useful clinically because injecting a “foreign” bacterial protein into a patient is likely to induce a severe immune response that would make the antibiotic inactive. There were therefore gasps of amazement in Beijing at data presented from several animal studies showing this was not the case.

I came across this in The Guardian this week and it's news from China on anti-biotics - but good news.


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