ATLANTA (CBS46) -- While the nation focuses on COVID-19,  a silent pandemic is brewing here in Georgia.

Researchers at the University of Georgia have found a gene that causes resistance to one of the most important antibiotics in the world.

This gene recently found is bacterial and doesn't have anything to do with the COVID-19 virus. But considering everything else you need antibiotics for including a sinus infection or a skin condition, if this gene were in your body, even the crucial last resort antibiotic couldn't fight it off.

PREVIOUS STORY: Gene that causes bacteria to grow resistant to antibiotics detected in Georgia's sewer water

Lurking in Georgia’s sewer water is a gene called MCR-9. It was discovered by University of Georgia Assistant Professor of College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Issmat Kassem.

Professor Kassem says the MCR-9 gene causes bacteria to be resistant to one of the world's most important antibiotics.

"When other antibiotics fail we resort to colistin and colistin should take care of the problem, however if the bacterium has this gene that we have detected in the sewer water, then colistin will not be able to kill the bacterium,” Kassem says.

Antibiotics are used to treat infections, everything from cuts and wounds to surgeries.

Professor Kassem is concerned about the MCR-9 gene because it doesn't just go from human to human, it can jump into anything and everything.

He says, "with these you can get them from the environment, you can get them from the food. If you're working in your garden you can get an antibiotic resistant infection."

"We got here because we overused and misused those drugs in human medicine and in agriculture,” Kassem tells CBS46.

He says the only way to solve the problem of antibiotic resistant genes and stop them, is if the effort involves everyone. "We're talking about medical doctors not to over prescribe antibiotics unnecessarily, the patients not to ask their doctors to prescribe the antibiotics,” Kassem says.  He’s also calling for the agriculture industry to avoid using human antibiotics.

The most recent study by the Atlanta based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals the United States has 2.8 million antibiotic resistant infections every year, more than around 35,000 people die as a result.

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