Untreatable superbug makes its way to US for first time: 6 things to know

A strain of E. coli resistant to colistin — the antibiotic of last resort — was identified for the first time in the U.S. in April, marking "the emergence of a truly pan-drug resistant bacteria," according to a study in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

Here are six things to know about colistin, this case and "super" superbugs.

1. The bacteria were cultured from the urine of a 49-year-old female who was treated at a military clinic in Pennsylvania. The sample, which was sent to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., showed the colistin-resistant gene, mcr-1.

2. Colistin is "one of the last efficacious antibiotics for the treatment of highly resistant bacteria," Patrick McGann, PhD, from the Multidrug Resistant Organism Repository and Surveillance Network at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, said, according to Science Daily. "The emergence of a transferable gene that confers resistance to this vital antibiotic is extremely disturbing. The discovery of this gene in the U.S. is equally concerning."

3. CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, said in The Washington Post the discovery "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."

4. While this is the first discovery of such bacteria in the U.S., the drug-resistant and deadly strain has also shown up in pigs, raw pork and a small number of people in China in November, according to the Post. It is also in Europe.

5. The CDC is working with Pennsylvania health officials to find out where the Pennsylvania woman — whose outcome was not reported — contracted the bacteria, according to the Post. The study notes that the woman did not report any travel for the last five months.

6. "Continued surveillance to determine the true frequency for this gene in the USA is critical," the study authors concluded.

More stories on antibiotic resistance and stewardship:
NQF, CDC release practical antibiotic stewardship playbook: 6 things to know
Pond-dwelling virus may combat antibiotic resistance
Harvard team publishes plan for discovering new antibiotics, combating resistance 

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