By: Martin Macmahon

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Our province’s top doctor is keeping a close eye after a new gene has been discovered out east that makes bacteria resistant to even last-ditch antibiotics.

Three cases of MCR-1 have been found in Ontario, dating back to 2010, re-igniting concerns about the consequences of overusing antibiotics.

“We have believed for a couple of hundred years now in the theory of evolution,” says provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall. “Bacteria evolve and viruses evolve, and one of the things they do to evolve is to avoid antibiotics. And what we’ve seen since the advent of antibiotic use in the 1950s is that the more antibiotics we use, the more bacteria generally become resistant to them.

“We run the risk of running out of antibiotics and going to a pre-antibiotic era where even simple infections can be uncurable and dangerous.”

In this case, MCR-1 produces an enzyme that can give bacteria resistance to colistin, a powerful antibiotic often used when all others have failed.

This is leading to heightened awareness at hospitals in our province, says Kendall, who outlines what would happen if this gene was found in a patient:

“There’s a lot of screening going on,” says Kendall. “For example, for patients who have been hospitalized on the Indian subcontinent or in Egypt for awareness. Such patients, if they’re found to be carrying antibiotic-resistant organisms, appropriate isolation and hygiene can be taken.”

As for dealing with the problem on a higher level, Kendall wants regulations in place to prevent farmers using antibiotics on animals unnecessarily, as this erodes the effectiveness of those drugs.

Originally Published: News 1130