On Monday, scientists announced they have discovered bacteria carrying a rare and potentially devastating gene on a pig farm in the U.S. Known as bla IMP-27., the gene gives bacteria the ability to resist carbapenems, which are known as a “last-resort” antibiotics.
The location of the farm was not disclosed, but it was described as a family-sized operation with roughly 1,500 pigs. Researchers found the bacteria in swabs and fecal samples around the farm. They did not discover the gene in the pigs scheduled for slaughter nor in the humans who handled the pigs.
“There is no evidence the pigs carried the gene into the [human] food supply,” Thomas Wittum, a co-author of the study, said in a press release.
However, the gene was discovered in multiple bacteria species around the farm. Researchers say that suggests the gene could potentially turn up in bacteria that infects humans and animals.
“The implication of our finding is that there is a real risk that CRE may disseminate in food animal populations and eventually contaminate fresh retail meat products,” the researchers wrote.
The gene transports itself on plasmids, a type of genetic material that can replicate independently of its chromosomes.
The dwindling resistance of antibiotics is becoming a growing concern in the agriculture and medical fields. Earlier this year, researchers discovered a similar antibiotic-resistant gene in a sample of E Coli. The gene was carried in a similar fashion to bla IMP-27. Researchers believe there is a possibility that one superbug could mutate with another superbug, creating something extremely difficult to eradicate.