The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report has confirmed that a 70-year-old woman from Nevada in the US has died after being infected with a superbug that is “resistant to all available antimicrobial drugs”.
The victim broke her right leg during a long stay in India and had repeatedly needed hospital treatment in the country. An infection got into the bone and then spread to her hip.
She was seriously ill when she arrived in a US hospital in August 2016. Her immune system was going into overdrive in an attempt to fight the infection causing inflammation throughout her body. Her condition escalated, and ultimately she died from septic shock.
Samples of the infection taken from the wound were sent to the US CDC for testing.They showed she was infected with Klebsiella pneumoniae - which normally lives in the gut without causing disease.
The analysis found the superbug was resistant to all 26 available antibiotics in the US including the “drug of last resort” – colistin.
According to the US CDC, infections that are resistant to all antibiotics are very uncommon. But the case remains a warning of the dangers of what the US CDC calls untreatable “nightmare bacteria”.
Some scientists have argued we are on the cusp of the “post-antibiotic era” with cases like this in Nevada becoming more frequent.
The tests showed the bacteria did have low levels of resistance to fosfomycin, a drug that is approved in the US only as an oral treatment for uncomplicated cystitis.
Prof. Laura Piddock, from Antibiotic Action and the University of Birmingham, said: “Despite such multi-drug resistant bacteria being rare, this report is a salutary tale of the dire outcome for some patients when potentially useful drugs are not available.
“In circumstances such as this, where doctors are faced with the inability to treat a life-threatening infection, they need the flexibility to use antibiotics licensed for use in other countries and shown to be active in the laboratory against the patient’s infecting bacterium.”