Second untreatable superbug infection in US identified by researchers

Researchers have identified a patient in New York infected with a strain of E. coli containing the mcr-1 gene, which makes the bacteria highly resistant to even last-resort antibiotic treatments, Reuters reports. This is the second U.S. patient with the untreatable superbug infection, following a Pennsylvania patient first made public last month.

The research will be published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. Reuters broke the embargo on the new finding after the authors pushed the date of release to check their findings for accuracy, but a spokeswoman for the journal told Reuters the authors are confident and plan to confirm their claims in a matter of days.

The mcr-1 gene was first discovered in November 2015 in a pig in China has since slowly spread, with human cases identified in Europe, Malaysia and now the U.S. The gene gives bacteria resistance to colistin, a last-line-of-defense antibiotic used to combat a number of resistant microorganisms.

After the gene was found in the strain of E. coli responsible for a urinary tract infection in the Pennsylvania patient, CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, warned that the end of the antibiotic era was not far off. In light of the discovery, legislators from the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations conducted a hearing on June 14 to outline a way forward for healthcare organizations and public health agencies.

Going into 2017, the White House has requested $1.1 billion be allocated to efforts to combat antibiotic resistance in the U.S. The CDC also plans to add capacity to laboratories in every state to help track the spread of superbugs containing the mcr-1 gene, according to Reuters.

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