The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a report detailing a potentially dangerous bacterium found in squid imported from South Korea and sold at a Chinese grocery store in Saskatoon, Canada.
Although the bacterium, pseudomonas fluorescens, is common, it is reportedly carrying a gene that can produce the VIM-2 carbapenemase enzyme. According to Wired, carbapenems are “last-resort,” highly resistant antibiotics that could cause problems on a global scale. Carbapenem resistance also travels via gut bacteria, indicating that it could easily enter the food chain.
As the report notes, “The global emergence of carbapenemase-producing organisms is a public health emergency because these enzymes confer resistance to nearly all β-lactam drugs and are often associated with multidrug or pandrug resistance. Alarmingly, reports of carbapenemase-producing organisms from environmental and animal sources, including food animals, are increasing.”
The test conducted by the CDC did not find the bacterium to be highly resistant, although it serves as an example for the potential of the enzyme to enter the food supply. Previously, the bacterium has only affected those who faced more direct exposure.
"This finding indicates that the risk for exposure to carbapenemases extends beyond persons with particular travel histories, previous antimicrobial drug use, or hospitalization and into the general public," the report reads.
The threat of ingesting carbapenem-resistant bacteria does not pose an immediate health risk. If the bacterium is incorporated into an individual’s gut flora, however, it could stay there for life and pose a risk of drug-resistant illness later in life as the immune system weakens.
The CDC is calling for a closer examination of this bacterium in foods, especially seafood and undercooked food such as the squid recently discovered in Saskatoon.