Monday, May 30, 2016

THE SUPERBUG - The Drug-Proof Strain of E-Coli

"New ‘superbug' becomes first drug-proof bacteria to hit U.S." PBS NewsHour 5/26/2016


SUMMARY:  A 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman has been found carrying a strain of E-coli that is resistant to last-resort antibiotics, which researchers say marks the first appearance of a drug-proof bacteria on U.S. soil.  Scientists in Pennsylvania are working with the Centers for Disease Control to find a way to fight the superbug.  Hari Sreenivasan talks to Dr. Beth Bell of the CDC for more.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  A sobering new development with superbugs and public health concerns about the limited effect of antibiotics.

For the first time in the U.S., a person has been found to be carrying a strain of E-coli  (Escherichia coli) that's resistant to antibiotics of last resort.  The Washington Post reported the strain was discovered last month in a 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman.  She was resistant to ColistinAnd researchers said it — quote — “heralds the emergence of a truly pan-drug-resistant bacteria.”

Dr. Beth Bell is with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  And she is now working with Pennsylvania officials.  She's the director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.

Thanks for joining us.

First, how — what is so distinct about these findings?

DR. BETH BELL, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:  Colistin is an antibiotic that we have already had for quite a long time, but we use it as a last line.

So, it's our drug of last resort.  And so when patients are infected with some of these superbugs that we have talked about before, where the strain is resistant to pretty much every antibiotic, we rely on Colistin as the last resort.

And what we find here in this patient, the bacteria that infected this patient, is that her strain contains one of these mobile genes that confers resistance to Colistin.  So, because bacteria can spread these mobile genes among themselves, it sets off a situation where we can see a bacteria that's resistant to every known antibiotic.  And, of course, that is a very frightening prospect for all of us.


So, when I am go to the pharmacy, and I'm prescribed something like azithromycin or something, it's pretty low on the scale of the arsenal that doctors have.  So, this is the top end.  There is nothing after this.  That means that the patient is untreatable, and that means there is a, what, greater chance that they might die because of this?


There’s — we luckily haven’t seen actual bacteria that are resistant to every single antibiotic here in the United States.  But there are reports of this in other parts of the world, and these patients have a very high mortality rate.  It’s extremely difficult to treat them.  And, again, this raises the specter of a post-antibiotic era.

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