Proactive Efforts by U.S. Federal Agencies Enable Early Detection of New Antibiotic Resistance
Just over a year ago, President Obama released a National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria. As part of that plan, he charged the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with co-chairing a Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (Advisory Council). In the past year, our three agencies and the Council have held numerous stakeholder meetings, made new discoveries, and undertaken new research to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics.
In recent weeks, our three agencies have made some important discoveries regarding antibiotic resistance in the United States. Earlier this week, the Department of Defense notified stakeholders that the Multidrug-resistant Organism and Surveillance Network at the Walter Reed Institute of Research had identified the first colistin-resistant E. coli in a person in the United States. A USDA and HHS search for colistin-resistant bacteria in food animals, retail meats and people has found colistin-resistant E. coli in a single sample from a pig intestine.
These discoveries are of concern because colistin is used as a last-resort drug to treat patients with multi-drug resistant infections. Finding colistin-resistant bacteria in the United States is important, as it was only last November that scientists in China first reported that the mcr-1 gene confers colistin resistance. Following the revelation in China, scientists across the globe began searching for other bacteria containing the mcr-1 gene, and the bacteria have since been discovered in Europe and Canada. The mcr-1 gene exists on a plasmid, a small piece of DNA that is not a part of a bacteria’s chromosome. Plasmids are capable of moving from one bacterium to another, spreading antibiotic resistance between bacterial species.