Audacious Hitchhikers: The Role of Travel and the International Food Trade in the Global Dissemination of Mobile Colistin-Resistance ( mcr) Genes

Antibiotics (Basel). 2020 Jul 1;9(7):370. doi: 10.3390/antibiotics9070370.


Colistin, a last-resort antibiotic, has been used in controlling infections caused by multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacterial pathogens. However, recent reports showed a global dissemination of mobile colistin-resistance (mcr) genes, genetic elements that encode resistance to colistin, which has raised public health concerns. These mcr genes threaten the effectiveness of colistin and could limit therapy options for complicated infections. Despite global attention, many facets of the molecular epidemiology of mcr remain poorly characterized. Here, we focus on the role of travel and the international food trade in the dissemination of mcr to countries where these genetic elements and/or colistin resistance are relatively limited in prevalence. We present evidence from the literature on the acquisition of mcr during travel, and the carriage of these genes back to travelers' countries. We also highlight the potential transmission of mcr via imported foods. These observations emphasize the magnitude of efforts that are needed to control the spread of mcr, and further highlight the challenge of antimicrobial resistance and the urgent need for coordinated global action.

Keywords: antibiotic resistance; antibiotic-stewardship; colistin; food; global dissemination; mcr; trade; travel.