Superbug Just Found in US Could Mean the End of Antibiotics

'Routine operations could become deadly; minor infections could become life-threatening'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted May 26, 2016 5:35 PM CDT
On Wednesday, US military officials reported the first US human case of bacteria resistant to an antibiotic used as a last resort drug.   (Janice Carr/CDC via AP)

(Newser) – The director of the CDC says we're close to living in a "post-antibiotic world" after an antibiotic-resistant superbug was discovered in the US for the first time last month, Reuters reports. “It basically shows us that the end of the road isn’t very far away for antibiotics," the Washington Post quotes Tom Frieden as saying. "We may be in a situation where we have patients in our intensive-care units … for which we do not have antibiotics." Patient zero is a 49-year-old woman in Pennsylvania with E. coli. The bacteria that infected her, while treatable with other antibiotics, had a gene—mcr-1—that is unaffected by the antibiotic colistin. Colistin is known as the last antibiotic line of defense against "nightmare bacteria."

Researchers, who published their findings Thursday, fear the mcr-1 gene could be passed on to other bacteria that aren't treatable with other antibiotics. If that happens, the Post states that "routine operations could become deadly; minor infections could become life-threatening crises." NBC News reports the Pennsylvania woman hadn't traveled anywhere in five months, so it seems the bacteria had been hiding undetected in the US. It's previously been found in Europe, China, Canada, and South America. (Read more superbug stories.)

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