Superbug that Beats all Known Antibiotics
Last week, US medical officials confirmed what scientists have been warning about for years - a superbug that causes an infection resistant to all currently known antibiotics. The bug has been found in a 49-year-old Pennsylvanian woman who was treated for urinary tract infection at a military clinic last month. Although the patient survived, experts fear that the resistance could pass on to other bacteria.
E.Coli is the bacterium that was found in the patient. Tests proved that this particular strain was resistant to first-line antibiotics which are usually used to treat such infections. Director of the CDC Dr. Tom Frieden said that antibiotics may become obsolete if action is not taken soon.
Superbugs of this type have already been seen in other countries but it is the first time this has happened in the United States. In the case of this particular patient, the drug used was Colistin. This drug was banned in the 1970s due to nasty side effects. Now it is used to fight bugs resistant to a class of antibiotics called carbapenems, which are usually the last line of defence. Experts point out that if the bugs become resistant to Colistin, doctors would not have any more options to treat patients. Extensive use of antibiotics by patients on prescription and in food livestock have resulted in this crisis.
Last year, the mcr-1 gene was spotted in China in humans and pigs. The mcr-1 gene is the genetic mechanism by which the E.Coli bacterium develops its plasma-mediated resistance to Colistin and other last resort antibiotics.
Dr. Gail Cassell, microbiologist and lecturer at Harvard Med warned that the disease could spread if not properly contained and pointed out that the risk of the bug passing from animals to humans is a major concern. She also added that the spread of the disease cannot be predicted until more is learned about how the Pennsylvanian woman contracted the infection and how many similar cases have been recorded globally.
Till now, the superbug has been reported in China, Canada and parts of Europe. Dr. Cassell says that there is no need for people to panic but insists that washing hands with soap, cleaning fruits and vegetables before consumption and maintaining hygiene in general is very important.
The key to combating this situation is to make sure that antibiotics are used only when absolutely necessary. This way malignant bacteria wouldn't develop resistance to antibiotics so easily and quickly.