This is the kind of case researchers warned about for years: A Nevada woman in her 70s died months ago from an infection that no antibiotic in America could have defeated, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released Thursday. The woman was hospitalized in August last year after she returned from an extended trip to India. Doctors discovered that she was suffering from a carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) infection, which she had apparently contracted after being treated for a broken right hip in India, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. She died of septic shock, and testing showed the bacteria was resistant to all 14 kinds of antibiotics the hospital had on hand, per the medical website Stat. Even more alarmingly, later tests revealed that none of the 26 antibiotics in America would have worked.
"I think this is the harbinger of future badness to come," Dr. James Johnson, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Minnesota, says. He notes that while this is—for now—a very rare case, it's hard to believe nobody else in the country is carrying the same strain of CRE. Johnson says people often ask him: "'How close are we to the edge of the cliff?' And I tell them: 'We're already falling off the cliff.'" The hospital where the woman was treated says it didn't notify the public at the time. No further cases of antibiotic-resistant CRE have been identified, according to the CDC report, which stresses the importance of slowing the spread of such bacteria, and of finding out when patients have been treated in facilities outside the US. (A solution to the problem might be up your nose.)