Prof. Andrea Endimiani, MD, PhD, from the Institute of Infectious Diseases at the University of Bern, Switzerland, explains the method by which bacteria carrying the mcr-1 gene are transmitted between people.
Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)
“The transmission of bacteria carrying mcr-1 between humans follows the same rules of [the transmission of] other pathogens, like those that produce [Extended Spectrum Beta-Lactamase (ESBL)] or Carbopenemases. If we are in a hospital, and we have a patient [who] is infected or colonized at [the] intestinal level, and is in contact with the [hospital] personnel or directly with other patients, [then the patient] can transmit [the gene] via, for example, the hands. We know very well that we have to wash [our] hands, use gloves, [and so on], to stop the transmission of the bacteria between humans.
It is not important if the original patient with mcr-1 is infected, [the patient] can be only a carrier at [the] intestinal level and can [still] transmit [the gene] to another person [who] can [then either] be infected or colonized. The difference is substantial but epidemiologically not very relevant. In hospitals in western countries, we have many patients [who are] only colonized at [the] intestinal level with superbugs. We have to be very careful when we approach these patients; for example, [we can] put them in isolation to prevent [bacterial] transmission to other patients [who] are not yet colonized.”
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