A Nevada woman died from a superbug she contracted while traveling in India, and the bug resisted all major antibiotics produced in the U.S. when she was treated, according to multiple reports. Experts are worried that this could mean an uptick in widespread, incurable diseases.
The Centers for Disease Control released a report Friday confirming that the woman’s infection resisted all antibiotics used to try to treat her. CDC officials said in the report the bacteria that caused her infection has a “resistance mechanism[s] of great concern,” meaning the bug resists all antibiotics, which poses a serious threat to public health.
The woman was hospitalized in August after traveling through India and receiving medical care there for a fractured femur, according to multiple reports. Upon returning to the U.S., she was diagnosed with systemic inflammatory response syndrome, according to the CDC report. She suffered from septic shock as a result. The initial fracture led to an infection in her thigh bone and hip.
Bacteria was taken from the infection for testing, and doctors found the strain was a bacterial group called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) with an NDM-1 mutation. CRE refers to a family of drug-resistant bacteria that have evolved so a whole class of antibiotics cannot kill them. An NDM-1 mutation means the virus is even more drug resistant and outcomes of treatment are unpredictable.
Only one compound, fosfomycin, is thought to have been able to kill the bacteria the woman had. But fosfomycin is only approved in pill form for treatment of another infection, cystitis, according to the CDC. An intravenous form of fosfomycin is available in other countries, but the woman died before doctors could discuss using it.
The presence of an incurable superbug has experts worried, since superbugs are still extremely rare in the U.S., according to a Huffington Post report.
The CDC report emphasizes the danger of a superbug that is resistant to all antibiotics. These types of bacteria are very uncommon: over 80 percent of bacteria tested can be controlled with at least one class of antibiotics, and over 90 percent can be treated with another antibiotic that is effective against drug-resistant bacteria, according to the CDC.
Superbugs not only resist antibiotics, but can swap genes with one another, causing a disease to mutate even faster.
This means that experts must take a serious look at infection control in case of future superbugs. Luckily, the bacteria present in the woman’s infection was contained, but the risk for serious, incurable disease in the future is a threat, according to speculation based on this woman’s case.