Researchers find first U.S. bacteria with worrisome superbug genes

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New Jersey researchers said on Monday they had identified perhaps the first strain of E. Coli bacteria in the United States with mobile genes that make it resistant to two types of antibiotics now considered last-line defenses against superbugs.

Researchers said the strain of bacteria was found in a 76-year-old man who was treated in 2014 for a complicated urinary tract infection. Further analysis in 2016 showed the bacterium carried mcr-1, a gene that creates resistance to the last-ditch antibiotic colistin. It was also shown to carry blaNDM-5, a gene that blocks effectiveness of carbapenems, which are considered medicine's most reliable current antibiotics now that bacteria have found ways of outwitting other families of antibiotics.

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BOSTON - AUGUST 23: Colony of E. coli cells are grown in the synthetic biology lab at Harvard Medical School in Boston on Tuesday, August 23 2011. (Photo by Wendy Maeda/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
ELIOT, ME - MAY 26: Kyler Dove, a seventh grader at Marshwood Middle School in Eliot, stops to take a drink from one of the 11,520 water bottles donated to the school Tuesday, May 26, 2015 by Cumberland Farms. Home Depot and Hannaford have also made donations to the school as it manages the current E coli scare. (Photo by Jill Brady/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OR - MAY 23: A shopper looks for bottled water on nearly empty shelves at a New Seasons Supermarket May 23, 2014 in Portland, Oregon. Oregon health officials ordered Portland to issue a boil-water alert after three separate samples tested positive for E. coli, a bacterium that can cause severe gastrointestinal illness. (Photo by Natalie Behring/Getty Images)
Jack Kurtz, 10, right, and mother Paula Gillett pose for portrait in their Rockford, Illinois home, November 5, 2009. Jack recovered from a food-borne illness last year. The source of the E. coli that hospitalized him was never determined. (Photo by Lane Christiansen/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)
Madison Sedbrook, 6, right, and her mother Cindy are in their home at Highlands Ranch on Tuesday. Madison's parents are suing because she got e coli from eating raw cookie dough recalled by Nestle. Hyoung Chang/ The Denver Post (Photo By Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA - FEBRUARY 21: A BJ's Wholesale Club awaits customers on February 21, 2007 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Yesterday, the giant wholesaler announced a voluntary recall of prepackaged Wellsley Farms mushrooms, due to possible trace amounts of E.coli. No cases of the illness have been reported. (Photo by Jeff Fusco/Getty Images)
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Results of the study were reported on Monday in mBio, an online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

Although the patient was treated successfully with other antibiotics, researchers said the bacterium had the potential to spread and become a powerful superbug.

"The good news is that this did not cause a major outbreak of drug-resistant infection," said senior study author Barry Kreiswirth, director of the Public Health Research Institute Tuberculosis Center at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. (Reporting by Ransdell Pierson in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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