New superbug worries

The Soil Association has called on the UK Government to issue guidelines that will limit the veterinary use of the most modern penicillin-type antibiotics. The move is necessary, it says, to prevent the spread of a serious new superbug. Recently released minutes of a Government committee reveal that Ministers have been briefed about the emergence on a British dairy farm of a mutant strain of antibiotic-resistant E. coli which causes life-threatening cases of food poisoning, including hemorrhagic colitis and haemolytic uraemic syndrome, both of which are a particular threat to children. 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. ESBL resistance has previously been found on 57 UK farms, but until now only in strains of E. coli that cause urinary tract infections and blood poisoning.

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