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State and Federal Officials Brief Media on MCR-1 Gene in E. coli Bacteria

May 31, 2016

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) and the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hosted a briefing call for state and national media about the discovery of the MCR-1 gene in a Pennsylvania woman.

E. coli bacteria carrying the MCR-1 gene were found in the woman’s urine sample. DOH cannot discuss the specific details of the investigation because of Pennsylvania’s Disease Prevention and Control Law, which protects a patient’s privacy. DOH did confirm it is working closely with the CDC and the U.S. Department of Defense on a coordinated investigation into the case.

 DOH and CDC officials clarified that, despite some media reports, the bacteria identified in the woman are not resistant to all antibiotics. The primary concern among the officials is that the presence of the MCR-1 gene, and its ability to share its antibiotic resistance with other bacteria, raises the risk that antibiotic-resistant bacteria could develop.

The general public can help prevent the spread of infection through frequent hand-washing and using alcohol-based hand gels. Care providers should wear medical gloves if they will be coming into contact with blood or body fluids.

In addition, cooking meat to the proper internal temperature kills bacteria whether or not the meat is carrying the MCR-1 gene. Handling, preparing, and storing food correctly are essential in preventing any type of foodborne illness.

Resistant bacteria can be spread in health care settings, when patients are most vulnerable. Three critical efforts to prevent a health care-acquired condition include:

  • Preventing infections related to surgery or placement of a catheter
  • Preventing the spread of bacteria between patients
  • Improving antibiotic use

The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania’s (HAP) Pennsylvania Hospital Engagement Network (PA-HEN) is focused on antibiotic stewardship for the Clostridium difficile (C. diff)bacterial infection as part of its 2016 contract with the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. HAP plans to expand antibiotic stewardship education efforts in 2017.

State and federal officials said their goal is to address the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria by innovating with new tools, through faster diagnostics and better prevention.

As reported in HAP Daily last week, beginning in fall 2016, CDC’s antibiotic resistance lab network will enhance the infrastructure needed to detect and respond to resistant organisms recovered from human samples by establishing:

  • Lab capacity for seven to eight regional labs
  • Labs in all states and seven major cities/territories

The goal is for the state labs to detect new forms of antibiotic resistance and report the findings to CDC in near real-time.

Officials also said their efforts will include the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System for Enteric Bacteria (NARMS), a collaboration among state and local public health departments, the CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This national system tracks changes in the antimicrobial susceptibility of certain intestinal bacteria found in sick people, retail meats, and food animals in the U.S. The program helps protect public health by providing information about emerging bacterial resistance, the ways in which resistance is spread, and how resistant infections differ from susceptible infections.   

Resources about the issue are available through DOH and the CDC.

For additional information, contact Dr. Michael Consuelos, HAP's senior vice president, clinical integration.

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