The Atlantic reports A Woman Was Killed By a Superbug Resistant to All 26 American Antibiotics
Funny—by which we all mean scary—because yesterday afternoon, the CDC also released a report about a Nevada woman who died after an infection resistant to 26 antibiotics, which is to say all available antibiotics in the U.S. The woman, who was in her 70s, had been previously hospitalized in India after fracturing her leg, which led to an infection of the bone. There was nothing to treat her infection—not colistin, not other last-line antibiotics. Scientists later tested the bacteria that killed her, and found it was somewhat susceptible to fosfomycin, but that antibiotic is not approved in the U.S. to treat her type of infection.
The most worrisome kind of colistin resistance is caused by a single gene called mcr–1. The bacteria that killed this woman did not have mcr–1; it’s still unclear how they became resistant. Other cases of colistin resistance have emerged before though. What makes mcr–1 special is that sits on a loop of free-floating DNA called a plasmid, which bacteria of different species can pass back and forth. And there are many plasmids out there with genes that confer resistance to this or that class of antibiotics.