January 16, 2017

Woman dies of infection no antibiotic could treat

A report published this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention details the death of a Nevada woman from an infection that was resistant to all 26 antibiotics available in the US.

Increasing resistance to antibiotics is a well-publicized threat, and a superbug that's resistant to all antibiotics is the worst case scenario.

The woman, who was in her 70s, had spent an extended time in India where she had fractured her leg and been admitted to hospital. The injury eventually led to an infection in her hip.

Back in the US last summer, the superbug she picked up was treated unsuccessfully with so-called last-line antibiotics. The Atlantic recently published an article on how resistance to colistin, 'the antibiotic of last resort', is spreading quickly.

Antibiotic resistance could kill 10 million a year by 2050

The Nevada patient was isolated and her superbug didn't spread. There was a further hint of optimism in that scientists tested the bacteria that killed her and found that the antibiotic fosfomycin had some impact. However, that antibiotic is not currently approved in the US to treat her type of infection.

The assessment of many experts is that more cases like this are not very far away, and they're likely to increase in the very near future.

“I think this is the harbinger of future badness to come,” said Minnesota VA Medical Center specialist Dr. James Johnson, with a refreshing lack of jargon.

“If we’re waiting for some sort of major signal that we need to attack this internationally, we need an aggressive program, both domestically and internationally to attack this problem, (the Nevada case) is one more signal that we need to do that,” added Lance Price, who heads the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center at George Washington University.

According to PBS, an expert report published last year warned that the threat of antibiotic resistance could kill 10 million people a year by 2050 if not addressed sufficiently.


Image credit: Thinkstock