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According to a study published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, scientists in China have discovered significantly increased levels of bacteria resistant to the antibiotic colistin in pigs. The drug is a last line of defense against a host of bacterial infections, many of which are common in people. Researchers said they expect the resistant bacteria to spread outside of China, if it has not already done so.
“What is particularly worrying about this is the mechanism of this resistance means that it can spread very easily between species. So global spread is likely.” Liz Tayler of the World Health Organization told BBC4 Radio. “This paper suggests that this has already spread out of China and into Malaysia.”
According to the study, researchers stumbled upon the antibiotic-resistant bacteria during a “routine surveillance project,” testing antimicrobial resistance to E. coli in China’s food animals. In the E. coli-infected test subjects, 21% of animals contained the colistin-resistant bacteria, as well as 15% of raw meat samples and 1% human patients.
“Some people will have untreatable infections and will start to die,” Tayler said. “We have to take action now.”