Science

Colistin-Resistant ‘Nightmare Bacteria’ Found For The First Time In US

The first ever detection of the “nightmare bacteria” in the United States has set the alarm bells ringing in the healthcare community. A 49-year old woman in Pennsylvania with symptoms of a urinary tract infection was found to be afflicted with the nightmare bacteria. The carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae or CRE has genetic mutations that make it resistant to Colistin.

Colistin-Resistant 'Nightmare Bacteria' Found For The First Time In US

What could be even worse than the ‘nightmare bacteria’?

Colistin is a strong antibiotic used to treat the CRE. Its side-effects include kidney damage; that’s why it is only used as a last resort. While there have been cases of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in China and Europe, it was the first case in the United States. The Pennsylvania woman was carrying a mutant of Escherichia coli. Fortunately, it was not resistant to a few other antibiotics, so the woman was not left without hope.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention said we need to act urgently, else it could mean the “end of the road” for antibiotics. Researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research who detected the strain, published their report in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. What worries health officials is the gene that made the E. coli antibiotic-resistant.

One bacteria can easily pass the gene, called mcr-1, on to another. An extensive analysis revealed that the gene sits on the plasmid, which makes it easier for one type of bacteria to pass the gene along to another. It would be the worst nightmare if the E. coli with mcr-1 gene passes it to another species of bacteria with other mutations. It could potentially create a “super-superbug” that will render all the known antibiotics useless.

CDC asks drug companies to create new antibiotics

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Tom Frieden said if such a super-superbug spread, it would take humanity back to the time when there were no antibiotics. CDC has urged people to make better use of the existing antibiotics to prevent the evolution of more superbugs. It has also asked pharmaceutical companies to develop new antibiotics on a priority basis.

The CDC said it was working with the health department of Pennsylvania to speak to the patient and figure out how she may have been infected. According to NBC News, health officials will also test others who may have been in contact with the patient.