Superbugs Just a Step from Being Unbeatable

A woman in Pennsylvania is the first patient in the US to be infected with a bacteria resistant to all antibiotics. She was treated for a urinary infection at a military clinic, yet due to unusual test results, had her urine culture sent to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, which identified the drug resistance. She did not know how she contracted the bacteria since she had not traveled in the last five months. It is possible she contracted it through food or contact from an infected person unknowingly.

The patient healed on her own, but now the reality of untreatable infections is on the horizon. Resistance can spread to other germs due to the loose genetic material bacteria share with each other. This discovered genetic element, though rare, allows bacteria to become resistant to every antibiotic. The gene for colistin resistance was first found in China where the drug is used with pig and poultry farming.

The bacteria are resistant to colistin, an antibiotic held in reserve as a last resort to treat very dangerous infections resistant to carbapenem drugs. If carbapenem-resistant bacteria (CRE) become resistant to colistin, they will be unstoppable. We are just one step away from CRE strains which are untreatable.

CRE, called the “nightmare superbug” is still quite rare, causing about 600 deaths each year over 44 states. Infectious disease doctors have been warning for several years how overusing antibiotics will reduce the power of the drugs. Nearly two million Americans become sick from antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year, and 23,000 die from those infections. CRE germs normally infect people in hospitals or nursing homes, but are not limited to those with severely compromised immune systems.
Tavernise, Sabrina and Grady, Denise. “Infection Raises Specter of Superbugs Resistant to All Antibiotics.” Health. The New York Times, 26 May 2016. Web. 27 May 2016.

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