During routine testing of food animals for antimicrobial resistance in China, the researchers isolated E. coli strain SHP45 from a pig on a farm in Shanghai that showed resistance to a polymyxin antibiotic called colistin that could be transferred to another strain.
This prompted the researchers to collect bacteria samples from pigs at slaughterhouses across four provinces and from pork and chicken sold in 30 open markets and 27 supermarkets across Guangzhou between 2011 and 2014.
They also analyzed bacteria samples from patients presenting with infections to two hospitals in Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces.
“These are extremely worrying results,” said Jian-Hua Lui, study author from South China Agricultural University in Guangzhou, China. “Our results reveal the emergence of the first polymyxin resistance gene that is readily passed between common bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Klesbsiella pneumoniae.”
In a linked comment for the journal, David Paterson and Patrick Harris from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, wrote that, “The links between agricultural use of colistin, colistin resistance in slaughtered animals, colistin resistance in food, and colistin resistance in human beings are now complete.”
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