For the first time, researchers have found a person in the United States carrying bacteria resistant to antibiotics of last resort, an alarming development that the top U.S. public health official says could mean “the end of the road” for antibiotics.
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology. Published a report about a 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman with a strain of E. coli resistant to the antibiotic Colistin found in her urine.
Colistin is the antibiotic of last resort for family of bacteria known as 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.
In this particular case the infection happens to be treatable by other antibiotics, but the genetic mutation that provides the bacteria with the ability to be resistant to colistin has been identified in plasmids.
Since plasmids can replicate and can be transferred from one bacteria to another, it is possible for other types of bacteria to develop resistance to Colistin. This possibility presents some very real and immediate risks to humans.
Colistin resistant bacteria have already been identified in China and Europe. Colistin is widely used in the China livestock industry in pigs, as a result the resistance probably first began in bacteria that infected pigs. It is thought that through foot, the resistance was transferred to pathogens that infect humans.
The Agriculture Department and the Department of Health and Human Services has reported that testing of hundreds of livestock and retail meats turned up the same colistin-resistant bacteria in a sample from a pig intestine in the United States. USDA said it is working to identify the farm the pig came from.
For more information read the full interview with Dr. Arjun Srinivasan