Science and Journalism in Society

Brandeis University JOUR 130B

A Mutation to be Wary of

It was during my freshman year dance ensemble rehearsal that I first heard about drug resistant bacteria. Yes, I heard it in dance rehearsal. However, it was not until I took a course on genetics and genomics that I learned about how bacteria become resistant to drugs used to treat and cure bacterial infections. Now three years later, science articles on the topic of drug resistant bacteria continue to haunt global society. These articles make me wonder, what if the best of our antibiotics succumb to resistance? How would we cure illnesses that have the potential to harm and kill?

In an article by Bethany Brookshire “New gene resists our last-ditch drug” she discusses how researchers in China have discovered a mutated gene in pigs, named mcr-1, that is resistant to an antibiotic named Colistin. A drug that is commonly known as a “last resort drug” for patients who are very ill. In the article Brookshire discusses the different ways in which bacteria become resistant, how antibiotic use in agriculture contributes to resistance buildup, the importance of this issue, and briefly gives examples of potential solutions to delay resistance from developing.

There is a lot of fear surrounding this topic. Bacteria live everywhere, and although the presence of some bacteria do benefit humans and animals there are many that do not. When one comes into contact with a bad bacterium it could lead to a poor health outcome. If bacteria can adapt to resist even the strongest of antibiotics known to cure serious illnesses our global health systems may have a problem.

The mcr-1 resistant gene has not yet been found in patients within hospitals, but is resistance an inevitable outcome? Experts referenced in the article say it is not time to “panic” and share alternate ways to handle issues of resistance that may arise. However, the potential for resistance is still there and is apparent in the fears of many including myself and my fellow dancers.



1 Comment

  1. Very important topic and you bring up some very interesting ideas, worded well. Is mcr-1 a bacterial gene or pigs? I’d like to see you explore that gene, and what it means, more in depth. I hope you pursue this theme of antibiotic resistance!

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