'Nightmare' superbug now a reality in the US

A Pennsylvania woman is the first in the country to come down with a "nightmare" bacteria that is resistant to last-resort antibiotics, according to researchers, who documented the case in a study published by Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

The discovery heralds the emergence of truly pan-drug resistant bacteria´in the United States, the research team said.

The alarming development "basically shows us that the end of the road isn't very far away for antibiotics--that we may be in a situation where we have patients in our intensive care units, or patients getting urinary tract infections for which we do not have antibiotics," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden told the Washington Post.

The newspaper reports that the CDC is working with public health officials in Pennsylvania to determine how the woman may have contacted the bacteria.  The woman has colistin-resistant E. coli. Colistin is the antibiotic of last resort for the deadliest of superbugs, including CRE, which health experts call "nightmare bacteria" and the CDC considers one of the nation's most urgent public health threats.

The patient was treated last month in an outpatient military treatment facility in Pennsylvania, according to a post on the U.S. Defense Department Science Blog. Authorities did not indicate her current condition. 

Clinicians and public health officials have long warned of the dangers of superbugs, calling for antibiotic stewardship programs to curb the inappropriate use of antibiotics. But the latest development is alarming, David Hyun, a senior officer leading an antibiotic-resistance project at the Pew Charitable Trust, told the Post. The discovery, he said, adds urgency to the need for these programs and surveillance.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) called the discovery "terrifying." In a statement to USA Today, he called for the development of new drugs to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria

To learn more:
- here's the study abstract
- read the blog post
- check out the Washington Post coverage
- see the USA Today article