Upcoming Health Crisis? 4th Incident of Superbug Gene Found in the United State
This week a toddler in Connecticut was found to have the superbug gene MCR-1, which makes E. coli resistant to most antibiotics. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have been closely monitoring cases like this one since the superbug gene first appeared in China. The toddler had been traveling to the Caribbean with her family when she first became ill. She was treated for E. coli once she returned to her home in Connecticut and that’s when the superbug gene was detected after her condition worsened.
The superbug is primarily spread through the consumption of food (the first case of the bacteria was discovered on a Chinese pig in 2015). Analysis of the child’s diet while in the Caribbean showed that she had eaten chicken and goat meat from a live animal market and also that she interacted closely with a pet dog and cat.
MCR-1 has been found in 30 countries on all 5 continents and it spreads rapidly in various types of bacteria. We’ve long known that taking antibiotics when you aren’t really ill is a leading cause for “growing” superbugs. There may also be a connection between antibacterial soaps and gels. Scientists warn that if the superbug is not discovered early enough, it could make humans resistant to multiple drugs. In May, a woman showed antibiotic resistance in Pennsylvania but was eventually successfully treated after much trial and error. The source of that woman’s infection was never identified, but experts were able to determine that contamination due to exposure from colonized patients was extremely rare (since this woman had the superbug for some time and did not infect even her close family members living in her home).
Still, researchers wonder if at some point, a superbug will be resistant to all modern antibiotics. If this were to happen, medicine as we know it would degrade beyond recognition. Antibiotics are the basis for most medical advancements—cancer treatment, surgeries, and childbirth become extremely risky when there is no way to treat infection. The CDC is watching and waiting and hopefully they will be able to stay one step ahead of the bacteria. This is one SHTF scenario we certainly do not want to happen.
How to Protect Yourself
- Wash you hands with soap and water: Experts recommend singing the “Happy Birthday” song as you lather. Traditional soap mechanically removes germs from your skin, so time and motion and your friends.
- Avoid antibacterial soaps: they aren’t more effective than regular soaps, and many of them have also been recently banned by the FDA. They also tend to be drying, which leads to small cuts in the skin, which is how germs get into your body.
- Moisturize your hands: see number 2. Well moisturized hands offer more protection against germs.
- Avoid hospitals: Hospitals are breeding grounds for germs. Malingerers and those who use the emergency room for general treatment are at extremely high risk.
- Avoid taking unnecessary antibiotics: studies show that those who are most at risk for contracting a superbug are people with compromised immune systems (the elderly, children, and pregnant women) and people who routinely take antibiotics.
Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.