'Nightmare bacteria' detected on US pig farm

Bacteria with genetic resistance to last-resort antibiotics called carbapenems were detected on a U.S. pig farm for the first time, according to a new study published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

For the study, researchers collected fecal samples from 1,500 sows and tested the pigs' environment four times over the course of a five-month period. On the third visit, researchers collected 24 environmental samples from two nursery units on the farm. The gene that allows for carbapenem resistance — IMP-27 — was detected in 11 of the 24 samples. While no pig was made ill by the gene, the study's results suggest carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae could colonize in human handlers of raw meat and one day disseminate from person to person.

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"The last terrible shoe may have just dropped when it comes to drug-resistant infections. This is just one more warning that doctors may soon have nothing left in their toolkit to save patients when these bugs strike," David Wallinga, MD, senior health officer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, said in a news release. "Our overuse of antibiotics in livestock is creating reservoirs for the spread of resistance — and this study strongly suggests resistance to carbapenems is no exception. To save our miracle drugs, we have got to stop wasting them on animals that aren't sick."

CRE are considered by the CDC to be one of the major threats created by antibiotic resistance. Tom Frieden, MD, the director of the organization, has previously referred to CRE as "nightmare bacteria." CRE infections usually occur in the healthcare setting, causing approximately 9,300 infections and 600 deaths in U.S. hospitals annually.

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