The Slatest

First Drug-Resistant Superbug Detected in U.S. Could Mean the “End of the Road” for Antibiotics

Aha!

BENOIT DOPPAGNE/AFP/Getty Images

Before you head off for a nice little family vacation at the beach this weekend, just a quick heads up that researchers announced Thursday that for the first time a drug-resistant E. coli superbug has been detected on American shores. (Gulp.) It was last seen on I-95 tossing cars and trucks left and right with its tentacles. Just kidding, everyone knows superbug tentacles are only strong enough to lift a compact. Have a great trip!

But seriously, a drug-resistant strain of the bacteria, how bad are we talking? Because it certainly sounds bad. “It basically shows us that the end of the road isn’t very far away for antibiotics…” CDC Director Tom Frieden told the Washington Post Thursday. I’m going to miss the road. Before you go stock up on hand sanitizer for this post-antibiotic world, here’s more from the Post:

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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… [i]n 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… Scientists and public health officials have long warned that if the resistant bacteria continue to spread, treatment options could be seriously limited. Routine operations could become deadly. Minor infections could become life-threatening crises. Pneumonia could be more and more difficult to treat…

In November, public health officials worldwide reacted with alarm when Chinese and British researchers reported finding the colistin-resistant strain in pigs, raw pork meat and in a small number of people in China. The deadly strain was later discovered in Europe, Africa, South America and Canada.

“[The CDC has] been urging drug companies to develop new antibiotics, and asking people to make better use of the antibiotics now available so that more superbugs do not evolve,” according to NBC News.

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