|'Mission San Juan Capistrano bells'
by Ballookey Klugeypop under a
I've written on superbugs before but recently antibiotic resistance re-surfaced in the news in a different way. As described by Maryn McKenna, seafood imported from South Korea to Canada was found with Pseudomonas bacteria, which turned out to carry a gene that enables the synthesis of a carbapenemase enzyme. This is alarmingly important for a number of reasons:
- Carbapenamase enzymes can inactivate carbapenem, an antibiotic of last resort.
- Seafood is sometimes mildly processed, in some cases deliberately to retain flavour and texture, while in others it may simply be undercooked. In such cases, the bacterium found would be likely to survive.
- Non-resistant bacteria can acquire antibiotic resistance from resistant ones via horizontal gene transfer involving plasmids
Carbapenem resistance in the food production system has been a concern previously. Unfortunately, this needs to be considered in tandem with the occurrence of carbapenem resistant infections that seems to be on the rise in Europe (but still under control).
The Canada seafood case highlights a different route of concern, where the consumers may be exposed to resistant non-pathogens (with the potential to be found on a variety of foodstuffs) rather than resistant pathogens, directly, or antibiotic residues in food, which could - in turn - potentially invoke antibiotic resistance.
There is a need for better monitoring of the various routes that can lead to antibiotic resistance. This is no small challenge, though (and it comes with a certain price tag)! However, without any need to panic, it is essential we understand what the risk is and adapt our food processing (and healthcare) practices accordingly. Such approaches work on the prevention front. Hopefully, we'll also make some more breakthroughs on the antimicrobial front, as well!