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Thursday, May 26

Better build that wall fast: CDC sounds the alarm about antibiotic-resistant bacteria

"It's the first time this colistin-resistant strain has been found in a person in the United States"

Building a wall at America's southern border is not the message the CDC wanted to send today but while the Doomsday Virus captures the imagination, it's actually the Doomsday Bacteria we need to be worried about when antibiotics fail during this highly globalized era of travel and produce/livestock exports.  

I've omitted a few paragraphs from the following report that I didn't think were critically important but I recommend that you study the entire report, and also this earlier report linked to in the writing:  [Feds ramp up efforts to deal with antibiotic resistance]  

The superbug that doctors have been dreading just reached the U.S
By Lena H. Sun and Brady Dennis
May 26 - 6:15 PM EDT
The Washington Post

This post has been updated.

For the first time, researchers have found a person in the United States carrying bacteria resistant to antibiotic of last resort, an alarming development that the top U.S. public health official says could signal "the end of the road" for antibiotics.

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."

[Superbug known as ‘phantom menace’ on the rise in U.S.]

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.

Health officials said the case in Pennsylvania, by itself, is not cause for panic. The strain found in the woman is treatable with some other antibiotics. But researchers worry that the antibiotic-resistant gene found in the bacteria, known as mcr-1, could spread to other types of bacteria that can already evade other types of antibiotics.

It's the first time this colistin-resistant strain has been found in a person in the United States. 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.

“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 said in an interview Thursday.

"I’ve cared for patients for whom there are no drugs left. It is a feeling of such horror and helplessness,” Frieden added. “This is not where we need to be.”

[1 in 3 antibiotics prescribed in U.S. are unnecessary]

Separately, researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Health and Human Services Department 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. The USDA said it is working to determine the pig's farm of origin.

CDC officials are working with Pennsylvania health authorities to interview the patient and family to identify how she may have become infected with the bacteria, including reviewing recent hospitalizations and other health-care exposures. CDC hopes to screen the woman and her contacts to see if others might be carrying the organism. Local and state health departments also will be collecting cultures as part of the investigation.

Thursday’s study did not disclose further details about the Pennsylvania woman or the outcome of her case, although it said that she had not reported any travel in the previous five months. The authors could not be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for Pennsylvania Department of Health said the agency could not legally disclose specific details about an individual case investigation.


Colistin is widely used in Chinese livestock, and this use probably led bacteria to evolve and gain a resistance to the drug. The gene probably leaped from livestock to human microbes through food, said Yohei Doi, an infectious-disease doctor at the University of Pittsburgh who has studied the problem.

“Food handlers may be at higher risk,” he said. In places like China, where live animal markets are often in close proximity to food stalls, it may be more likely for the bacteria to spread from animals to humans. In the United States, where food is sealed in packages and containers, it’s a different story, he said.

“These are the reasons why I don’t think we need to panic," Doi said. "But it does tell us that this concerning gene is in the United States and we need to find out what the extent of the problem is.”

He and other infectious disease experts called for speedier action to curb the overuse of antibiotics in livestock.

“It’s hard to imagine worse news for public health in the United States,” Lance Price, director of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center and a George Washington University professor said in a statement Thursday about the Pennsylvania case. “We may soon be facing a world where CRE infections are untreatable."

Scientists rang the alarm bells about the gene in November, but not enough attention was paid. “Now we find that this gene has made its way into pigs and people in the U.S.," Price said. "If our leaders were waiting to act until they could see the cliff’s edge—I hope this opens their eyes to the abyss that lies before us.”



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