The “superbug” health officials have long worried about has finally emerged in the United States.
A Pennsylvania woman, now known as patient zero, is being poked and prodded by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doctors to learn more about the deadly bacteria that is resistant to even the “last resort” antibiotic, colistin.
CDC officials are currently interviewing the unidentified Pennsylvania woman and her friends and family, to help determine how she contracted the superbug, which is a strain of E. coli.
The woman was treated at a military facility and her cultures were sent to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and then to a special Defense Department system, The Washington Post reported.
It is the first time a colistin-resistant bacteria has been found in the United States.
“It basically shows us that the end of the road isn’t very far away for antibiotics — that we may be in a situation where we have patients in our intensive care units, or patients getting urinary-tract infections for which we do not have antibiotics,” CDC Director Tom Frieden told the newspaper. “I’ve been there for TB patients. I’ve cared for patients for whom there are no drugs left. It is a feeling of such horror and helplessness. This is not where we need to be.”
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolfe said his office, the Defense Department, and the CDC are working together to develop an “appropriate” response.
“We are taking the emergence of this resistance gene very seriously,” Wolfe said.
Frieden told the newspaper that the situation is dire because colistin is the antibiotic used against the very worst of bacteria – some of which can kill 50 percent of patients who are infected. The bacteria is known as CRE bacteria.
“This is definitely alarming,” David Hyun, an antibiotic expert at the Pew Charitable Trust, told the newspaper. “The fact that we found it in the United States confirms our suspicions and adds urgency to actions we need to work on antibiotic stewardship and surveillance for this type of resistance.”
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