A new gene that gives bacteria the power to resist an antibiotic described by doctors as a “last resort” treatment for various infections was found among people and pigs in China. The team of scientists that made the discovery suggests “an alarming potential” for the gene to spread bacteria ranging from pneumonia to serious blood infections that have the potential to be antibiotic resistant.
The new resistance gene, called MCR-1, could be spread by a portable form of DNA, according to Prof. Jian-Hua Liu and his team of scientists. MCR-1 is resistant to an old antibiotic called colistin and for doctors, this antibiotic is the “last line” of defense against various infections. The study is published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.
“When they found this gene popping up in China in the animals and in the meats that they were testing and also in the patients, now they’re worried because now this germ is now strong against this last line. And so if we don’t have another antiobiotic to come in, what do we do then?” Dr. Peter Lin, a family physician and medical commentator, told CBC News Network.
“Although currently confined to China, mcr-1 is likely to emulate other resistance genes… and spread worldwide,” according to a warning written in the study.
The mere discovery of resistant bacteria could spark fear that a new bioterror weapon is lurking in the horizon. A germ resistant to a “last resort” treatment is terrifying especially with hints of World War 3 that could erupt in the South China Sea between the United States and its allies versus China and even Russia.
Just this February 2015, The Guardian was in possession of a three-page memo, marked “UK secret UK eyes only.” The documents reveal that the UK government instructed its top-secret military research unit to investigate the potential use of Ebola as a weapon. The documents include requests to investigate whether the al-Quaeda and the ISIS have plans of using Ebola as a weapon against the West. According to The Guardian, the top-secret unit was tasked in October 2014 to provide “guidance on the feasibility and potential impact of a non-state actor exploiting the Ebola outbreak in west Africa for bioterrorism.”
The controversy surrounding the use of bioterror weapons has a history dating as far back as the 1950s. According to unverified classified documents, reported by Forbes in 2013, the U.S. tested a liquid spray system that could spread lethal infections such as Anthrax, Tularemia, Psittacosis and Brucellosis. While such weapon was aimed at incapacitating enemy soldiers on the battlefield, the spray was reportedly tested among civilians, affecting to as much as 800,000 residents of San Francisco. According to Forbes, this was the most significant military experiments in the wakes of the Cold War.
The incident elevated the use of bioterror weapon as a strategic weapon in the same capacity as the atomic bomb. The former Soviet Union was said to have loaded their intercontinental missiles with disease agents such as the Marburg virus and smallpox. When the former Soviet Union collapsed, the bioterror scientists deflected to Iran and other countries across the world.