alarming new superbug gene that makes bacteria resistant to a
last-resort antibiotic has been detected in Canada, the Star has
The gene, called MCR-1, produces an enzyme
that makes bacteria invincible to colistin, a highly toxic antibiotic
used only when all other drugs have failed.
MCR-1 was first reported in November by scientists in China, who published a paper in The Lancet
that set off alarm bells across the globe. Analyzing bacterial samples
in southeastern China, researchers found 260 samples of E. coli with the
MCR-1 gene on meat, hospital patients and farm animals — the likely
source of this new superbug, the paper suggests.
But the news that really sent a shudder
through the scientific community was that MCR-1 is located on a plasmid,
a free-floating snippet of DNA that bacteria can easily share, thus
spreading the resistance to other organisms.