Although the current risk to the public is low, a top U.S. health official believes more people will be found carrying a superbug resistant to antibiotics of last resort, according to an article published by The Washington Post.
The bacteria, first found in a small number of people in China in November 2015, has a gene that makes it resistant to colistin, the drug of last resort to fight the deadliest of superbugs. The mcr-1 gene was discovered most recently in a Pennsylvania woman who had a urinary tract infection. It's still unclear how the woman came down with the strain of E. coli bacteria.
Despite initial reports, a Pennsylvania State Health Department has determined the woman did not have the "nightmare bacteria" CRE and the bacteria she has is not resistant to all antibiotics. However, the presence of the gene--and its ability to share colistin resistance with other bacteria such as CRE--does increase the risk that pan-resistant bacteria could develop, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an announcement.
The risk to the public is low at the moment, Beth P. Bell, M.D., director of the CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, told the publication. But, she said, it's likely that more cases will turn up in the United States.
"We are a globally interconnected world and people and bacteria travel around the globe," she told the Post.
Meanwhile, the CDC announced it is establishing a network of labs that can respond quickly to antibiotic-resistant superbugs. The seven to eight regional labs will be able to detect changes in antibiotic resistance and report the findings to federal authorities, leading to faster and more effective investigations and "stronger infection control among patients to prevent and combat future resistance threats."