Thursday November 14, 2019

Antibiotic Resistance Spreads From Animals To Humans At Faster Pace

Even Colistin is losing its potency against so-called "superbugs".

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Antibiotic
Chinese researchers identify potential new antibiotic. Pixabay

Scientists have expressed shock at the speed at which resistance to powerful antibiotics spreads from animals to humans, as new research has shown how genetic mutations in pathogens likely spread from a pig farm in China to affect human and animal species across the world in the space of just a few years.

The antibiotic Colistin is known as a medicine of “last resort,” used to save people’s lives when all other drugs have failed. Lead researcher Professor Francois Balloux, director of the Genetics Institute at University College London says it has become an important last line of defense as other antibiotics have become less effective.

“It was used a bit in the clinic. And then there were some worries about toxicity and side-effects. And it was mostly used in agriculture then, in pigs and a bit in chickens. But recently, as we are running out of drugs, people actually have become a bit more interested in using it, and it has been used quite extensively recently over the last five to 10 years in the clinic,” says Balloux.

Now even Colistin is losing its potency against so-called “superbugs”.

Fast mutation

Deadly pathogens like E. Coli or salmonella can mutate and develop resistance to antibiotics. Balloux’s research identifies the speed at which the mutant gene that gives resistance to Colistin emerged in the mid-2000s.

“It was a single mergence, it happened only once. And it jumped very, very likely from pigs, probably in China, and it spread extremely rapidly throughout the world. And it also spread in all sorts of different species, and affects humans. So now we find it in in many of the most important pathogens we face in hospitals. And it is absolutely everywhere,” Balloux told VOA.

The resistance has even been found in pathogens in the seawater on Brazilian beaches. Balloux notes his study focused on just one resistant gene, but many pathogens are developing other forms of resistance.

 

Britain’s chief medical officer warned recently that anti-microbial resistance could lead to the “end of modern medicine.”

“Think about common operations, caesarean sections, replacement hips. Those would become much more risky if we did not have effective antibiotics. Superbugs kill and they’re on the rise,” Professor Sally Davies told delegates at an October conference on anti-microbial resistance in Germany.

Scientists are working on “boosting” existing drugs like Colistin to give them added power against resistant pathogens.

Also Read: Antibiotics in puget sound mussels

Longer-term, researchers say more investment is needed in developing new drugs, along with a rethink of the way antibiotics are used in agriculture and in the clinic. (VOA)

Next Story

Scientists: Nations Need Stronger Pledges to Curb Climate Change

Governments are moving in the right direction, but nowhere near enough, so hopefully they will be willing to take on much stronger commitments

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Scientists, Nations, Climate Change
A woman wearing a mask walks past buildings on a polluted day in Handan, Hebei province, China, Jan. 12, 2019. China is reportedly the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases. VOA

The vast majority of national commitments in the 2015 Paris Agreement are inadequate to prevent the worst effects of global warming, scientists said on Tuesday, naming the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitting countries as among those that must ratchet up their efforts.

“Governments are moving in the right direction, but nowhere near enough, so hopefully they will be willing to take on much stronger commitments” in next month’s United Nation’s climate summit in Spain, said Robert Watson, lead author of the report by the nonprofit Universal Ecological Fund.

The report ranked nearly 75%, or 136, of the pledges as insufficient, including ones by major carbon emitters China, the United States, and India. A dozen, by countries including Australia, Japan and Brazil, were judged only partially sufficient.

Countries at next month’s summit in Madrid will hash out some details of the international pact to curb warming. Chile withdrew as host following weeks of riots protesting inequality.

Scientists, Nations, Climate Change
A protestor holds a placard in front of the India Gate during a protest demanding government to take immediate steps to control air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 5, 2019. VOA

Of the 184 pledges countries made under the climate agreement, only 36 are ambitious enough to help reach the agreement’s goal of keeping global warming less than 1.5 Celsius (2.7 F) above pre-industrial levels, the report said.

Most of those 36 are by countries in the European Union.

Watson, a former chair of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said the report could be read two ways: “You can read ‘My God it’s hopeless’, or ‘My God this is a wake up call.'”

Watson estimated that even if all nations meet their existing pledges, the world would be headed for temperature rise of between 3 and 3.5 degrees Celsius, which could lead to more extreme weather, rising sea levels and the loss of plant and animal species.

Also Read- New WhatsApp Feature Lets Users Decide to Join a Group or Not: Tech Report

The report rated the European Union’s 28 member states as having sufficient pledges because they aim to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 40% below the 1990 level by 2030.

It ranked the United States as insufficient because President Donald Trump reversed former President Barack Obama’s climate policies and yanked Washington out of the pact. The administration, which argues that Paris Agreement would cost U.S. taxpayers too much money, filed official paperwork on Monday to withdraw.

China, the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases, and India, also came in as insufficient because their pledges focus on carbon intensity targets, which lower emissions per unit of gross domestic product, or GDP. Because those economies are growing and coal produces much of their electricity, total emissions have risen sharply even though carbon intensity levels in China and India have fallen. (VOA)