Uh-Oh: Seagulls Carrying Drug-Resistant Superbug

'The good news is we found it; the bad news is, it's here'
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 24, 2016 9:36 AM CDT
Uh Oh: Seagulls Carrying Drug-Resistant Superbug
A seagull is reflected in a flooded meadow after heavy rains near Zell, southwestern Germany, on June 15, 2016.   (Thomas Warnack/dpa via AP)

As if the news surrounding the continued emergence of drug-resistant superbugs isn't already dire enough, scientists are now reporting in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy that seagulls, which thanks to their enormous migratory reach are great vehicles for carrying resistant bacteria to new places, are carrying a dangerous superbug. As National Geographic reports, the bacteria are able to survive even the "last-ditch" antibiotic colistin thanks to a gene dubbed mcr-1. Scientists have already reported on at least 100 cases of colistin resistance in almost two dozen countries. That includes three in the US: in two stored samples of slaughtered pigs and in a 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman who went to a clinic with a urinary tract infection.

While the woman has fully recovered from her infection, she continues to carry the resistant bacterium and no one has figured out where she got it in the first place. The seagulls carrying it were found in Lithuania and Argentina, and researchers say they likely picked it up by eating sewage or medical waste. "The lifestyle of gulls allows them to carry and disseminate pathogenic and resistant microorganisms despite country borders," the researchers write. In short, they're now worried that the resistant bacteria could spread much faster than originally thought, notes Fortune. (Are we truly at the end of antibiotics?)

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