Bacterial Threat to “Last Resort” Antibiotic Found to Enter Food Supply

Friday, June 20, 2014
Squid imported from South Korea was found to harbor a potentially deadly threat (Getty photo)

Federal health officials are warning of a new threat to so-called “last resort” antibiotics used to treat patients with deadly infections.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases that a type of Asian squid being sold in Canada contains a highly resistant bacterium. The squid, which was imported from South Korea, was found in a Chinese market in Saskatoon.


The bacterium itself, Pseudomonas, is common and not the concern. What is worrisome is the genetic material inside it that helps produce a carbapenemase enzyme.


As Maryn McKenna at Wired explains: “Carbapenems are the truly last of the few remaining last-resort antibiotics in the world. The global advance of carbapenem resistance … is what the CDC’s director was talking about last year when he referred to the worldwide threat from ‘nightmare bacteria.’”


Those nightmare bacteria are resistant to all antibiotics, including carbapenem. A patient with these bacteria who gets an infection might not have any options for a cure.


Carbapenem which enters the body through the digestive system is the most dangerous.


McKenna adds that “because carbapenem resistance largely travels via gut bacteria, some microbiologists have been apprehensive that it might get into the food chain. After all, many common foodborne diseases arrive via what’s politely called the ‘fecal-oral route’ — which is to say, fecal bacteria got on the food you eat. Since some of those bacteria, such as E. coli, are known to carry NDM [New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase, another disease resistant enzyme] and the other carbapenemases, it made sense to wonder whether food could transmit them also.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Very Serious Superbugs in Imported Seafood (by Maryn McKenna, Wired)

Carbapenemase-producing Organism in Food, 2014 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

23,000 Americans Die Annually from Antibiotic-Resistant Infections (by Noel Brinkerhoff)

“Near Absence” of Antibiotics to Combat Deadly New Bacterial Strains (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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