Rare Superbug Gene Found in Pig on US Farm

Scientists warn that consuming contaminated meat can lead to dangerous antibiotic resistance.


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A group of scientists from Ohio State University discovered a rare superbug gene—bla IMP-27—in a pig on an unnamed farm in the United States (identified only as a moderately-sized, family-run operation). The danger of this discovery lies in that bla IMP-27, if transmitted to humans through the consumption of meat, can lead to infection by bacteria carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), which kills half of the victims it infects. “The emergence of CRE has been described as heralding the end of the antibiotic era with their global expansion, presenting an urgent threat to public health,” the researchers stated. While the farmer from where the infected sample originated does not know the cause of the pig’s infection, lead researcher Thomas Wittum believes antibiotics used in the animal agriculture industry are to blame. David Wallinga, MD of the Natural Resource Defence Council says this gene may lead to doctors’ inabilities to treat people for common illnesses. “The last terrible shoe may have just dropped when it comes to drug-resistant infections,” Wallinga said. Similar superbugs have been found in meat in the United Kingdom. In September, the United Nations met to discuss the danger of antibiotic resistance, calling it a “fundamental threat to our planet.”