A gene that makes bacteria resistant to last-resort antibiotics has been found in Denmark, a new study has shown, after first being identified by researchers in China.
Scientists had warned on November 19 of a gene — found in southern China — called MCR-1 that makes bacteria resistant to a class of antibiotics, known as polymyxins, used to fight superbugs.
"Bacteria with the same resistance gene have now moreover been found in Denmark," the Technical University of Denmark said in a statement on the results of a study published late last week.
Using a Danish database of bacterial DNA samples, the researchers found the gene in a patient who suffered from a blood infection in 2015, & in five samples of imported poultry from between 2012 & 2014.
The food had been imported "via Germany yet if that is the origin we don't know yet", Professor Frank Moller Aarestrup, a microbiologist at the university, told AFP on Tuesday.
The find was "very concerning", said Robert Forest of Statens Serum Insitut, a Ministry of Health institute tasked with surveying & controlling infectious diseases.
"But because the gene has only been found in one patient & the oldest finds in food date back to 2012, it's not a matter of an urgently critical situation," he said in a statement.
In Denmark, the gene has so far only been found in bacteria that can be treated with other types of antibiotics.
Scientists warned in November that the new superbugs could erase nearly a century of antibiotic protection against killer diseases borne by usual germs such as E. coli.
The gene — detected in usual yet deadly bacteria such as E. coli & K. pneumoniae, which causes pneumonia & blood disease — effectively makes these bacteria invincible.
"These are extremely worrying results," said Jian-Hua Liu, a professor at Southern Agricultural University in Guangzhou.