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Researchers from the Ineos Oxford Institute for antimicrobial research (IOI) and Cardiff University have found evidence that bacteria resistant to colistin, a last-resort antibiotic, were present in mothers and babies under a week old in Nigeria in 2016, despite limited clinical use of colistin at that time in the country. The findings have been published in Nature Communications.

A hand with blue gloves showing a red sample © TopMicrobialStock, Getty Images

The study was the largest screening of intestinal microbiota for colistin resistance in Nigeria, analysing almost 5,000 samples from mothers and newborn babies across three hospitals. The researchers tested these for the presence of mobile colistin resistance (mcr) genes, which confer bacterial resistance to colistin.

Colistin is a broad-spectrum, ‘last resort’ antibiotic used to treat multidrug-resistant infections in humans. Despite its critical importance in human health, it used to be widely used in agriculture as an animal growth promoter.

In 2016, mcr genes were first discovered in E.coli bacteria from a pig being raised for meat on a farm in China. This led to a ban on colistin’s agricultural usage in China in November 2016 and subsequently in several countries across Europe. However, although surveillance for colistin resistance has become widespread across Europe and North America, there has been a lack of information about the prevalence of colistin resistance in African countries.

To address this knowledge gap, the researchers retrospectively tested samples that had been collected between 2015 and 2016. At this time, it is thought that colistin usage in Nigerian hospitals was limited, although it may have been imported for use in agriculture and farming.


Read the full story on the University of Oxford website.