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Scientists discover new ‘jumping’ superbug gene
“In treatments, if colistin does not work, it literally could mean death for patients. If colistin resistance spreads, a lot of people will die.”
mcr-9 can cause resistance to colistin 

US food scientists have discovered mcr-9, a new ‘jumping gene’ that can cause resistance to the last resort antibiotic colistin.

Cornell University researchers found mcr-9 in the genome of a strain of salmonella. To their surprise, the salmonella strain did not show colistin resistance.

However, when the gene was inserted into a non-pathogenic strain of E coli, researchers were able to ‘turn on’ mcr-9, making the strain resistant to colistin.

The findings have been published in the journal Mbio.

Co-lead author Laura Carroll said: “When we originally tested the salmonella isolate and found that it wasn’t resistant to colistin, we were perplexed. But when [co-lead author Ahmed Gabella] cloned it into an E. coli host, he was able to find that the gene could confer resistance to colistin.”

Commenting on the findings, Professor Martin Wiedmann said: “In treatments, if colistin does not work, it literally could mean death for patients. If colistin resistance spreads, a lot of people will die.”

mcr-9 is the latest in a string of ‘mobilised colistin-resistance genes’ first discovered in 2015.

The National Centre for Biotechnology Information added details of the new gene to its database, so that it can be used to identify the gene in bacteria isolated from food and people.

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RSPCA braced for ‘hectic hedgehog month’

News Story 1
 The RSPCA says that it is bracing itself for a ‘hectic hedgehog month’ after calls to the charity about the creatures peaked this time last year.

More than 10,000 calls about hedgehogs were made to the RSPCA’s national helpline in 2018, 1,867 of which were in July. This compares with just 133 calls received in February of the same year.

Evie Button, the RSPCA’s scientific officer, said: “July is our busiest month for hedgehogs. Not only do calls about hedgehogs peak, but so do admissions to our four wildlife centres as members of the public and our own officers bring in orphaned, sick or injured animals for treatment and rehabilitation.” 

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ASF traces found in seized meat at NI airport

More than 300kg of illegal meat and dairy products were seized at Northern Ireland’s airports in June, DAERA has revealed.

A sample of these were tested at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, resulting in the detection of African swine fever DNA fragments.

DAERA said that while the discovery does not pose a significant threat to Northern Ireland’s animal health status, it underlines the importance of controls placed on personal imports of meat and dairy products. Holidaymakers travelling overseas are being reminded not to bring any animal or plant products back home.