Overuse of antibiotics favours E coli ‘superbug’

A new superbug strain of E coli has been found on a British dairy farm.

The bug, known as E coli O26, is a vera-toxin producing E coli (VTEC), similar to the infamous E coli O157.

It causes life-threatening cases of food poisoning, including haemorrhagic colitis and haemolytic uraemic syndrome, which are a particular threat to children.

It is first time in the UK that VTEC E coli has been found with an enhanced type of antibiotic resistance making it resistant to almost all antibiotics.

Government vets found that 19 of 20 calves and 3 of 40 cows were positive for E coli O26 with ESBL resistance.

The farm has not been identified, but the farmer has been given hygiene advice to protect his family.

The presence of the E coli superbug was revealed by the Soil Association after the recently released minutes from a government committee.

It is calling on the government to limit the veterinary use of modern penicillin-type antibiotics, arguing that doing so would prevent the spread of a serious new superbug.

Soil Association policy adviser Richard Young said the high use of antibiotics in farming threatened to increase antibiotic-resistant infections in humans.

“The government often calls on doctors to prescribe antibiotics less often. But similar advice needs to be given to veterinary surgeons and farmers.”