Mutant antibiotic-resistant E coli

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Today is European Antibiotics Awareness Day!

This from the Soil Association Press Office:
Mutant strain of antibiotic-resistant E coli found in the UK

The bug, known as E. coli O26 is a vera-toxin producing E. coli (VTEC), similar to the infamous E. coli O157. What makes the discovery of this variant so significant is that this is the first time in the UK, and only the third time in the world, that VTEC E. coli has been found with an enhanced type of antibiotic resistance known as extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL), which makes it resistant to almost all antibiotics. [3] ESBL resistance has previously been found on 57 UK farms, [4] but until now only in strains of E. coli that cause urinary tract infections and blood poisoning.

Although antibiotics are not recommended for the treatment of VTEC E. coli [5] scientists warn that the emergence of resistance is undesirable because these resistant bacteria are encouraged every time certain antibiotics are used, resulting in increased spread and greater risk of contaminated food products. [6]

On non-organic dairy farms, cows are routinely given antibiotics at the end of their lactation to prevent mastitis. In addition, milk from cows given antibiotics for treatment, or prevention, is often fed to calves when it contains residues and cannot be sold.[7]However, because ESBL E. coliO26 is resistant to all the antibiotics used in ‘dry cow therapy’ and many of those used for treatment, the high use of antibiotics on dairy farms will promote the rapid spread of these dangerous bacteria. [8]

Soil Association Policy Adviser, Richard Young, said,
“This is one of the most worrying developments in the continuing rise of ESBL E. coli. Today is the first European Antibiotics Awareness Day, but there is a distinct lack of awareness that the continuing high use of antibiotics in farming is contributing to the increase in antibiotic-resistant infections in humans.

“The Government often calls on doctors to prescribe antibiotics less often. But similar advice needs to be given to veterinary surgeons and farmers. Half of all antibiotics are given to animals, [9] and there is mounting evidence that antibiotic-resistant bacteria in farm animals pass to humans. If we want antibiotics to save lives in the future as they have done in the past then the Government must provide specific recommendations based on scientific advice, and vets need to pull together with doctors to limit the use of problematic drugs.”

Government vets found that 19 of 20 calves and 3 of 40 cows were positive for E. coli O26 with ESBL resistance. The farm has not been identified, but the farmer has been given hygiene advice to protect his family. Surprisingly, no restrictions have been placed on animals from the affected herd, which are being sold locally to unsuspecting farmers and for export, so the Soil Association fears that the hyper-resistant strain will spread more widely.

Discover the Soil Association campaign for better anitbiotic use…

For further information and reference information, please contact the Soil Association Press Office  
T: 0117 914 2448    E:press@soilassociation.org    ISDN: 0117 944 6711  

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