Bacteria resistant to 'anti-biotic of last resort' detected in Pennsylvania

A newly published study reveals that a woman in Pennsylvania was found to have a never before seen type of E Coli bacteria which was resistant to one of the strongest forms of anti-biotics known. The Washington Post reports:

The antibiotic-resistant strain was found last month in the urine of a 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman. Defense Department researchers determined that she carried a strain of E. coli resistant to the antibiotic colistin, according to a study published Thursday in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology. The authors wrote that the discovery “heralds the emergence of a truly pan-drug resistant bacteria.”

Colistin is the antibiotic of last resort for particularly dangerous types of superbugs, including a family of bacteria known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, which health officials have dubbed “nightmare bacteria.” In some instances, these superbugs kill up to 50 percent of patients who become infected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called CRE among the country’s most urgent public health threats.

This strain of colistin-resistant E Coli was detected last year in China and later in Europe, Africa and South America. But the Post reports this is the first time it has been identified in the United States. Doctors have been warning about this looming danger for years. As we continue to use, and often over-prescribe, anti-biotics, more and more strains of drug resistant bacteria turn up.

To be clear, we’re not at the stage quite yet where we have no means to fight this bug. The E Coli found in the woman in Pennsylvania is said by the Post to be “treatable with some other antibiotics.” The problem is that the genes which make it resistant to our strongest anti-biotics will inevitably continue to spread. In other words, the possibility of a true superbug now seems much closer to reality than it did before.