Medical researchers and alternative health experts have for years been warning us that antibiotic overuse is creating deadly new superbugs. Experts are now calling one woman’s death from an antibiotic-resistant superbug a clear warning that the threat is no longer abstract.
The CDC reports that a 70-year-old woman in Nevada has died of a superbug that wouldn’t respond to treatment with any antibiotic available to the doctors who treated her.
From the CDC:
On August 25, 2016, the Washoe County Health District in Reno, Nevada, was notified of a patient at an acute care hospital with carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) that was resistant to all available antimicrobial drugs. The specific CRE, Klebsiella pneumoniae, was isolated from a wound specimen collected on August 19, 2016. After CRE was identified, the patient was placed in a single room under contact precautions. The patient had a history of recent hospitalization outside the United States. Therefore, based on CDC guidance (1), the isolate was sent to CDC for testing to determine the mechanism of antimicrobial resistance, which confirmed the presence of New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM).
The patient was a female Washoe County resident in her 70s who arrived in the United States in early August 2016 after an extended visit to India. She was admitted to the acute care hospital on August 18 with a primary diagnosis of systemic inflammatory response syndrome, likely resulting from an infected right hip seroma. The patient developed septic shock and died in early September. During the 2 years preceding this U.S. hospitalization, the patient had multiple hospitalizations in India related to a right femur fracture and subsequent osteomyelitis of the right femur and hip; the most recent hospitalization in India had been in June 2016.
Antimicrobial susceptibility testing in the United States indicated that the isolate was resistant to 26 antibiotics, including all aminoglycosides and polymyxins tested, and intermediately resistant to tigecycline (a tetracycline derivative developed in response to emerging antibiotic resistance). Because of a high minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) to colistin, the isolate was tested at CDC for the mcr-1 gene, which confers plasma-mediated resistance to colistin; the results were negative. The isolate had a relatively low fosfomycin MIC of 16 μg/mL by ETEST.* However, fosfomycin is approved in the United States only as an oral treatment of uncomplicated cystitis; an intravenous formulation is available in other countries.
This isn’t the first case of a superbug but public health experts say it is an alarming sign that doctors need to get serious about addressing antibiotic resistance.
“I think this is the harbinger of future badness to come,” said Dr. James Johnson, a professor of infectious diseases medicine at the University of Minnesota told PBS.
And antibiotic resistant infections are more common than you may think.
According to the CDC, each year at least 2 million people become infected and at least 23,000 die from antibiotic-resistant infectious agents. And you’re more likely to contract one of these infections while in a healthcare setting.
Via the CDC:
Antibiotic resistance in healthcare settings is a significant threat to public health. Because almost all Americans will receive care in a medical setting at some point, antibiotic resistance can affect anyone. By preventing antibiotic resistance in healthcare settings, patients’ lives are better protected and their health can be preserved.
Antibiotic-resistant infections can happen anywhere. Data show that most happen in the general community; however, most deaths related to antibiotic resistance happen in inpatient healthcare settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes.
One major contributor to the growing prevalence of superbugs is overprescribing of antibiotics.
According to the research, published in unison by the Centers for Disease Control and the Pew Charitable Trust, nearly one-third of prescriptions American doctors write for antibiotics are unnecessary.
That works out to about 47 million unneeded and potentially harmful prescriptions each year.
In many of the cases when prescriptions for antibiotics were written unnecessarily patients had viral illnesses against which antibiotic drugs are powerless. These illnesses include colds, sore throats, bronchitis and flu, among others.
Healthcare experts say American doctors often prescribe the drugs as a matter of patient satisfaction because many Americans believe antibiotics to be a completely safe medical cure-all.