American military researchers have identified the first patient in the United States to be infected with bacteria that are resistant to an antibiotic that was the last resort against drug-resistant germs.
The patient is well now, but the case raises the specter of superbugs that could cause untreatable infections, because the bacteria can easily transmit their resistance to other germs that are already resistant to additional antibiotics. The resistance can spread because it arises from loose genetic material that bacteria typically share with one another.
The bacteria are resistant to a drug called colistin, an old antibiotic that in the United States is held in reserve to treat especially dangerous infections that are resistant to a class of drugs called carbapenems. If carbapenem-resistant bacteria, called CRE, also pick up resistance to colistin, they will be unstoppable.What I found particularly interesting is that the gene for resistance to colistin was first noticed just this past November in China, where it is used in pig and poultry farming--exactly the problem associated with overusing antibiotics. We can attribute this almost directly to the rise in the standard of living in China and its associated increase in demand for pork among the Chinese, as I noted a couple of months ago.