Superbug Defeats 26 Antibiotics, Kills Woman

Public health officials from Nevada are reporting on a case of a woman who died in Reno in September from an incurable infection. Testing showed the superbug that had spread throughout her system could fend off 26 different antibiotics.

The near future will have lots more stories like this, and totals, and trends. And slowly and surely many people will choose to lead more hermit-like existences.

Bacteria Containing MCR-1 Gene Found in Denmark

Untreatable Superbug.

Totally resistant to all antibiotics, and recently found in China as well. While there are promising new antibiotics in the pipeline, only time will tell if they are developed quick enough.

Just weeks after the discovery in China of bacteria resistant to all known forms of treatment, the same strain has been found in Denmark. Worse: It’s been there since 2012. Late last week researchers at the Technical University of Denmark announced they had found the feared ‘invulnerability’ gene among E. coli bacteria samples taken from humans and food. The scientists had been conducting a review of a genetic database of some 3000 different E. coli samples taken since 2009. Specifically they were seeking the mcr-1 gene, a mutation which gives bacteria a frightening resistance to the last effective family of antibiotics — colistin.
Herald Sun

1000-year-old Remedy Kills MRSA

MRSA, as you probably know, is an antibiotic-resistant superbug. On a whim, UK researchers have tested the abilities of a recipe found in Bald’s Leechbook, a thousand-year-old compendium of medical advice and potions.

Take cropleek and garlic, of both equal quantities, pound them well together… take wine and bullocks gall, mix with the leek… let it stand nine days in the brass vessel…

Intended to cure eye infections, it looks like it might help in the fight against MRSA.
I say might, because Wikipedia already lists a number of other natural MRSA killers – like honey, akin, cannabis – but none are doing the job for us yet.

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Common Fungi Could Thwart Bacteria

It has long been thought that combining two drugs that can jointly battle bacteria might be the way to go, however pharmaceutical companies have been scared off by the exponential possibilities of side-effects and complications.

Even so, scientists have now discovered a molecule found in common household fungus Aspergillus versicolor can protect antibiotic products from the enzymes that the NDM-1 superbug uses to defeat them.

It has worked on mice, so the next step will be combining it with an antibiotic and seeing if it is safe for humans.

The fungus turns out to be one of the most resilient organisms on the planet, able to survive in the harsh climates of the arctic, the salty Dead Sea and even the International Space Station. That hardiness also makes it among the most common molds in damp or water-damaged buildings and moist air ducts.

When Wright and his team tested the fungus in mice infected with lethal doses of K. pneumoniae that carried the NDM-1 resistance to antibiotics, the mice shrugged off the infection. In fact, the fungus allowed the antibiotic to work effectively again, essentially circumventing the bacteria’s attempt at resisting the drug.

“The idea of rescuing our old antibiotics, is something that folks are starting to realize is not only a good idea, but doable,” he says.
[Source: Time]

Klebsiella pneumoniae: warning sign

How’s this for a warning sign?

Doctors are warning Australians to stop travelling overseas for elective surgery, after a New Zealand man contracted a superbug that no antibiotic could treat.

Brian Pool, a 68-year-old teacher, is believed to be New Zealand’s first victim of an aggressive bacterium that experts believe he caught in Asia.

”It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a totally resistant bacterium,” said Dr Mark Jones, a clinical microbiologist at Wellington Hospital. ”Nothing would touch it.”

…Tests showed he contracted Klebsiella pneumoniae, a strain of bacteria that produce enzymes that are completely drug-resistant. ”It is likely he caught it while in India,” said Dr Jones. ”The bacterium probably became infectious after he had surgery for a hernia.”

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Wild Animals Spreading MRSA

Most people contract MRSA in a hospital environment – in fact 18,000 Americans do just that (and then die) every year.

Less well-known is that MRSA exists in some more natural environments that don’t have much to do with humans.

  • pigs
  • pets
  • zoo animals

The latter two have typically been infected by humans, while the disease appears in pig sties thanks to the overuse and abuse of antibiotics in livestock. These are all directly attributable to human activity.

So where did MRSA originate from?

Researchers led by epidemiologist Tara Smith of the University of Iowa’s College of Public Health in Iowa City took samples from 114 animals that came into the Wildlife Care Clinic, which rehabilitates injured or orphaned animals, at Iowa State University in Ames. Seven of the animals, or 6.1%, carried S. aureus that was sensitive to methicillin; these included owls, pigeons, a beaver, a heron, and a squirrel. Three animals, or 2.6%, carried MRSA: two Eastern cottontail rabbits and a lesser yellowlegs, a migratory shorebird. (For comparison’s sake: An estimated 1.5% of Americans carry MRSA in their noses.) [Source: Science Magazine]

It is presumed that these wild animals have never received any antibiotics, nor would they have had contact with humans – so they most probably have picked up the bugs directly from their local environment.

Worryingly, one of the pigeons was carrying a strain of MRSA that was resistant to the antibiotic vancomycin – acknowledged as the last defense.

So, unfortunately for us, considering all the positive advances being made to make hospitals safer, a wild-animal-borne epidemic is a possibility, just one strain variation away. Imagine if it started spreading among pet cats or dogs?

Superbugs Might Persist

Until now scientists thought that if you were to remove antibiotics from the environment, antibiotic-resistant superbugs would not be able to compete with regular bacteria:

That’s because maintaining a chunk of DNA from another organism – or coping with a new antibiotic resistance mutation – uses up a cell’s resources and leaves it less competitive once the antibiotic has been removed…

New Scientist reports that studies have shown that a third of superbugs remained more competitive in the absence of antibiotics. The process is known as positive epistasis, but researchers have not yet figured out why it would happen.