U.S. researchers have identified the nation's first patient with an infection resistant to all existing antibiotics.
Scientists have warned for years the day could come when "superbugs"
resisted all last-resort antibiotics. This new case, involving a
49-year-old Pennsylvania woman, suggests that day may soon be here.
is the end of the road for antibiotics unless we act urgently," Dr Tom
Frieden, director of the US Centres for Disease Control and
Prevention, said at a National Press Club event in Washington, D.C.
Although the patient survived, it's feared the resistance could spread to other bacteria, according to media reports.
Read: Get smart about antibiotics
woman was treated last month for a urinary tract infection at a
military clinic in Pennsylvania. The culprit was identified as E. coli
bacteria. It's a common type of germ. But in this case, tests showed it
was resistant to first-line antibiotics – those usually used for these
Another kind of antibiotic proved successful in treating the
infection. However, subsequent testing revealed that the particular E.
coli was genetically resistant to the drug colistin.
Colistin, an older antibiotic, fell out of favour in the 1970s because of nasty side effects, the Associated Press
reported. Now, however, it's used to fight difficult-to-treat bacteria
resistant to a class of antibiotics called carbapenems. Carbapenems are
one of the last lines of defence, the AP said.
First time in US
Experts say that if carbapenem-resistant bacteria also gain
resistance to colistin, it could leave doctors with no treatment options
"This is another piece of a really nasty puzzle
that we didn't want to see here," said Dr Beth Bell, who oversees CDC's
emerging infectious diseases programmes, the AP reported.
Read: Initiative to study secrets of infectious diseases
countries have already had cases of superbugs resistant to all
antibiotics. But this is the first time it has occurred in the United
Researchers from Walter Reed National Military Medical
Centre in Bethesda, Maryland, confirmed the woman's infection. They
reported on the case in a journal of the American Society of
CDC and Pennsylvania health officials are still
trying to determine how the woman – who has not recently travelled
outside the United States – became infected with the colistin-resistant
The colistin-resistant gene has been found in people and
animals in Canada, China and Europe. American health officials said that
colistin-resistant E. coli has been found in a pig in the United
States. But they added that there was no apparent connection to the
Pennsylvania woman, the AP reported.
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