Colistin-resistant E. coli is carried by seagulls, researchers suggest

In May, the colistin-resistant gene mcr-1 was identified in a woman being treated at a military clinic in Pennsylvania, marking the first time the "super" superbug was identified in the U.S. New research suggests one possible carrier of the E. coli strain — seagulls.

According to National Geographic, two research teams on entirely different continents identified the drug-resistant gene in the droppings of two seagull species — Larus dominicanus, or kelp gulls, in Argentina and Larus argentatus, or herring gulls, in Lithuania.

Seagulls are almost certainly not the only way colistin-resistant E. coli spreads, and scientists are unable to trace how exactly the strain arrived in the U.S., since it could have spread from another person or from food. That said, pinpointing one carrier of the superbug may help researchers design surveillance systems to alert health planners of the gene's movement, Nat Geo reports.

"The lifestyle of gulls allows them to carry and disseminate pathogenic and resistant microorganisms despite country borders," the Lithuanian researchers wrote in their study. "Water contaminated by feces of birds should be foreseen as an important risk factor for transmission of resistant bacteria."

The research about the seagulls was published in two separate studies in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy and can be read in full here and here.



More articles on colistin-resistant E. coli:
Europe's CDC enacts guidelines to control the spread of antibiotic-resistance gene
Chemistry professors work to find a weapon against the untreatable superbug
Pittsburgh hospitals focus on stewardship after 'super' superbug found in Penn.

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