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Antibiotic-resistant superbug gene detected in Ontario: report

Last Updated Jan 5, 2016 at 10:06 am EDT

Bacteria in a petri dish. GETTY IMAGES/Media for Medical.

A troubling new superbug gene that makes bacteria resistant to all existing antibiotics has reportedly been detected in Ontario.

The gene, which is called MCR-1, produces an enzyme that makes bacteria invincible to colistin, a “last-resort antibiotic” used only when all other drugs have failed.

The Toronto Star reports the superbug gene has been found in the province, in three different samples of E. coli – one from a 62-year-old woman in Ottawa and two from ground beef sold from an undisclosed butcher shop and grocery chain.

According to the Star, the Public Health Agency of Canada triggered an investigation back in December.

The fear is that MCR-1 could eventually create bacteria capable of defeating every single antibiotic in the medicine cabinet.

British expert Dr. Hilary Jones said new drugs are required, which can take decades to develop. And that people need to use the existing ones sparingly.

“It takes about 25 years to create a new class of antibiotic. We haven’t had one single new class of antibiotic in 25 years – it costs about $1.5 billion to produce an antibiotic,” he said.

MCR-1 has been found in a dozen countries around the world since November of 2015.

So far, no deaths have been caused by the gene, but experts said some could be carriers of the superbug without showing symptoms.