Statement on the News that Dangerous Superbug Gene Discovered in Nearly 20 Countries is Now in U.S.

Media Contact: Nicole Tidwell,, 614-309-1293 and Kathy Fackelmann,, 202-994-8354

WASHINGTON, DC (May 26, 2016)—Today, it was announced that bacteria with a dangerous antibiotic-resistance gene, mcr-1, have been found in the U.S. in at least one person and in at least one pig. The gene bestows resistance to the antibiotic colistin, which is considered the last drug available to treat some deadly infections. This dangerous superbug gene was first reported in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases in November 2015 and has been found in nearly 20 countries around the world.

In response, the following statement was released by Dr. Lance B. Price, director of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center and professor at Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University:

It’s hard to imagine worse news for public health in the United States. Infectious disease doctors have come to rely on colistin to treat infections by the deadly bacterium called CRE, also dubbed the “phantom menace” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Colistin is the last drug that works against many of these bacteria, so we may soon be facing a world where CRE infections are untreatable.

Much like in the U.S., Chinese livestock producers are overusing antibiotics to prevent diseases and make animals grow faster. Colistin is widely used in Chinese livestock and this use likely led to the evolution of mcr-1. This promiscuous gene can be transferred from bacterium to bacterium, increasing the likelihood that it will find its way to CRE. History shows that mobile resistance genes can spread quickly around the world, silently riding in people, animals, and food. We’re watching this scenario play out in real time.

Scientists rang the alarm bells about mcr-1 back in November, but the attention didn’t last much longer than an average news cycle. Now we find that this gene has made its way into pigs and people in the U.S. If our leaders were waiting to act until they could see the cliff’s edge—I hope this opens their eyes to the abyss that lies before us. It’s time to act. We need a global agreement to end the abuse of all medically important antibiotics in livestock production in the U.S. and around the world.

Read Dr. Price’s past Huffington Post blog on the colistin news when it was reported in November 2015: Let’s Give Thanks and Hope We Haven’t Lost the War Against Superbugs

Dr. Lance Price is available for interviews. Please contact Nicole Tidwell,, and Kathy Fackelmann,, 202-994-8354


About the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center:  The Antibiotic Resistance Action Center (ARAC) was created to reduce antibiotic resistance worldwide by promoting good stewardship practices in humans and animals. ARAC is conducting cutting-edge research and strategic communications that promotes evidence-based policy to curb the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Specifically the center conducts research to close critical knowledge gaps and identify the primary drivers of antibiotic resistance, especially in animal agriculture; develops and evaluates strategies to decrease unnecessary antibiotic use in animals and humans; designs and implements effective strategies to detect and stop the spread of new antibiotic-resistant bacteria; and advocates for evidence-based policies aimed at preserving the antibiotics we still have left while slowing the progression of this global public health threat. Learn more at our website. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

About Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University: Established in July 1997 as the School of Public Health and Health Services, Milken Institute School of Public Health is the only school of public health in the nation’s capital. Today, more than 1,900 students from 54 U.S. states and territories and more than 50 countries pursue undergraduate, graduate and doctoral-level degrees in public health. The school also offers an online Master of Public Health, MPH@GW, and an online Executive Master of Health Administration, MHA@GW, which allow students to pursue their degree from anywhere in the world.