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If it sometimes seems like the idea of antibiotic resistance, though unsettling, is more theoretical than real, please read on.

Public health officials from Nevada are reporting on a case of a woman who died in Reno in September from an incurable infection. Testing showed the superbug that had spread throughout her system could fend off 26 different antibiotics.

“It was tested against everything that’s available in the United States … and was not effective,” said Dr. Alexander Kallen, a medical officer in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s division of health care quality promotion.

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Although this isn’t the first time someone in the US has been infected with pan-resistant bacteria, at this point, it is not common. It is, however, alarming.

“I think this is the harbinger of future badness to come,” said Dr. James Johnson, a professor of infectious diseases medicine at the University of Minnesota and a specialist at the Minnesota VA Medical Center.

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Other scientists are saying this case is yet another sign that researchers and governments need to take antibiotic resistance seriously. It was reported Thursday in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a journal published by the CDC.

The authors of the report note this case underscores the need for hospitals to ask incoming patients about foreign travel and also about whether they had recently been hospitalized elsewhere.

The case involved a woman who had spent considerable time in India, where multi-drug-resistant bacteria are more common than they are in the US. She had broken her right femur — the big bone in the thigh — while in India a couple of years back. She later developed a bone infection in her femur and her hip and was hospitalized a number of times in India in the two years that followed. Her last admission to a hospital in India was in June of last year.

The unnamed woman — described as a resident of Washoe County who was in her 70s — went into hospital in Reno for care in mid-August, where it was discovered she was infected with what is called a CRE — carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae. That’s a general name to describe bacteria that commonly live in the gut that have developed resistance to the class of antibiotics called carbapenems — an important last-line of defense used when other antibiotics fail. CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden has called CREs “nightmare bacteria” because of the danger they pose for spreading antibiotic resistance.

The superbugs are growing in number and strength. Hyacinth Empinado/STAT

In the woman’s case, the specific bacteria attacking her was called Klebsiella pneumoniae, a bug that often causes of urinary tract infections.

Testing at the hospital showed resistance to 14 drugs — all the drug options the hospital had, said Lei Chen, a senior epidemiologist with Washoe County Health District and an author of the report. “It was my first time to see a [resistance] pattern in our area,” she said.

A sample was sent to the CDC in Atlanta for further testing, which revealed that nothing available to US doctors would have cured this infection. Kallen admitted people in this field experience a sinking feeling when they’re faced with a superbug like this one.

“I think it’s concerning. We have relied for so long on just newer and newer antibiotics. But obviously the bugs can often [develop resistance] faster than we can make new ones,” he said.

Doctors and scientists who track the spread of antibiotic resistance — the rapidly proliferating swarm superbugs — see this case as a big red flag.

“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, here’s one more signal that we need to do that,” said Lance Price, who heads the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center at George Washington University.

There is international recognition of the threat, which an expert report published last year warned could kill 10 million a year by 2050 if left unchecked. In September, the UN General Assembly held a high-level meeting on antibiotic resistance, only the fourth time the body had addressed a health issue.

The woman in Nevada was cared for in isolation; the staff who treated her used infection control precautions to prevent spread of the superbug in the hospital. Chen and Randall Todd, a health department colleague, told STAT testing was done to look for additional infections, but so far none have been detected.

Johnson said it’s likely, though, that other people in the US are carrying similar bacteria in their guts and could become sick at some point. “It’s possible that this is the only person in the US and she had the bad luck to go to India, pick up the bad bug, come back and here it is, we found her and now that she’s dead, it’s gone from the US. That is highly improbable,” he said.

“People have asked me many times ‘How scared should we be?’ … ‘How close are we to the edge of the cliff?’ And I tell them: We’re already falling off the cliff,” Johnson said. “It’s happening. It’s just happening — so far — on a relatively small scale and mostly far away from us. People that we don’t see … so it doesn’t have the same emotional impact.’’

  • Please kindly keep me posted if Infection Prevention matters. I’m currently working as a Quality Assurance and Training Manager.
    My portfolio includes rolling out a Quality Management System for ISO certification, Occupational Safety & Health, training. I also sit on the Therapeutic Committee & coordinate monthly Morbidity & Mortality meetings every second Thursday of each month.
    I’m faced with clinical area decontamination challenges as unusual organisms are isolated on PIC surveillance.

  • Ultra violet light can sanitize bacteria. But if is man made immune bacteria to ultra violet light more testing in that specialty needs to be done.

  • Phage therapy consists of drinking a cocktail of bacteria attacking viruses. Was it tried. It has been used in Europe for 150 years by Easterner peoples that would, as a last resort, pack an infected wound in swamp mud. Unlike in America, regular Drs. didn’t dismiss it as silly but looked for an active agent and found that the mud had hundreds of viral types.

  • lol SCIENTIST FREAKS First create vaccines from animals and bugs inject it into humans when those viruses which are always around us get smarter they come up with even more vaccines lol . HEY sheeple just rely on you god given immune system REST during flu give your body enough time ( IF YOU HAVE TIME , YOU DEBT SLAVES ) to produce antibodies you will be ok . i rarely get sick ever since i gave up trendy vaccines and antibiotics .

    • The article clearly states a bacterial infection, not a viral infection. Viral infections are a whole different kettle of fish. You can’t use antibiotics on viral infections hence the name. I suggest you think about why you’re babbling some nonsense about viral infections on an article about antibiotic resistance.

  • I don’t know if anybody else has noticed we have such a shortage of doctors in the United States because of government got too involved and the doctors that they don’t get paid as much as they paid to go to school to learn to be a doctor so the newer ones are not learning as much as the older Dr with the high taxes that they charge doctors here they have all moved to other countries we are on the other hand becoming like the other countries that had no doctors before now I guess it’s our turn to see what it’s like to not have Dr and Healthcare here in the United States thanks to our government the government needs to stay out of the doctor’s business and let them go back to the way they used to practice medicine and things worked and got better for us. If the doctors didn’t have to pay so much for my insurance from lawsuits that everyone makes mistakes and turns around and Sue’s should not even be allowed if we want to be treated I wish we could go back to doctors making housecalls that would be the best thing for anybody anyone else agree on this?

  • Colloidal Silver? Ozone therapy? Herbal treatment? She most likely died because 90% of doctors in America are a joke

    • lol american doctors are the best in the world. If 90% are a joke then 99% of the rest of the world’s doctors must be jokes too. Better rely on shamans.

    • I agree they fail to acknowledge colloidal silver. Its hard for them to make money on it. Theres been tests done that say it makes antibiotics 1000x more effective. Or is colloidal silver just 1000 times for effective then the antibiotics? Its been known that no single cell organizim can live with silver present. I do believe american doctors have there heads up there asses when its not an easy go to drug or surgery fix. Supposedly the ebola virus was taken care of with silver (document someone showed me they called it micronic silver.. i interpert that as colloidal silver). Which all other approches failed trying to eliminate ebola. I find it rediculous its not more widely used or at least discussed minimally ( at least talk about it even if it wouldnt work.. which it probably would work.. which means they shouldnt talk about it or people will make it easily themselves.. which means they dont make money.. this system discusses me.. lets just let more people die so u can make more money)

  • That’s because the researchers and governments are looking for a miracle cure that they can make millions of instead of treating people with medicinal herbs and remedies people have being using for centuries. It is well documented that Royal Rife cured cancer many years ago. Many people throughout the world still use his and others like Renee Caisse and Hoxley treatments today. Articles like this just promote the death of millions like this women who most likely wouldn’t have died under the right care. Believe as you wish. Almost every single Doctor in Europe has a electromagnetic pulse generator that was the invention of Rife. American’s have just not learned yet the monetary motives of big Pharma and the corp of MDs.

    • It is wonderful hearing someone who has truth to share. Skip…I hope and pray that people will wake up one day. Have been using my TrueRife for the last couple of weeks for cancer and Lyme disease. I trust frequencies, herbs and mainly God and His leading …it always leads me away from Satan’s medicine that kills instead of heals. God gave us good clean food , water and air…and Satan has destroyed them all. Time we get back to basics and live a clean life as possible….things are only going to get worse from here on out. That’s what God’s word says and that is what is truth.

    • There is no empirical evidence to support whether holistic or alternative medicines, are effective in both preventing and treating illness/disease. Scientists, as a rule, have nothing to gain by skewing the data. Big pharm on the other hand does. But that is a separate issue. Tying the two together, as you have done, simply serves as a distraction, provides the public with misinformation and does nothing to inform or enhance the conversation moving forward.

    • You have to be kidding me with this, right? You do realize that bacteria evolves just like anything else, and that your herb garden isn’t going to stop any of this. There is no cure for cancer, unfortunately, despite the irresponsible claim to the contrary. The problem is antibiotics have been over prescribed, thus accelerating an evolutionary bacterial resistance to them. Please stop spamming too.

    • H. Skip Robinson: There is no empirical evidence to support whether holistic or alternative medicines, are effective in both preventing and treating illness/disease. Scientists, as a rule, have nothing to gain by skewing the data. Big pharm on the other hand does. But that is a separate issue. Tying the two together, as you have done, simply serves as a distraction, provides the public with misinformation and does nothing to inform or enhance the conversation moving forward.

  • The question isn’t the symptoms, its that 26 antibiotics designed to target the bacteria associated with those symptoms didn’t work. Terrifying. (they say it was UTI bacteria)

    • i make coloidial silver at home on the kitchen table for pennies a gallon that think would have at least slowed those bugs down enough to give poor women time time to find the right stuff to get the job done…and then their is american indian tea that turns on the good part of our immune systems ….i think with just those 2 things this women would still be with us today…..

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