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Woman Dies From Bacteria Resistant To All Antibiotics Available In US

Woman Dies From Superbug

A woman has succumbed to a superbug resistant to every antibiotic available in the US. This is a chilling reminder of why we need to safeguard our antibiotics.

The American woman returned from India with a broken hip that had become infected. To combat the infection doctors tried 26 different antimicrobials, but none were effective in eliminating infection. This is a chilling reminder that superbugs are developing resistance to antibiotics faster than we can create new ones and that antibiotics are a finite resource that should not be abused.  The reality is that no new antibiotics have been discovered in over 35 years.

What happened?

The woman had fractured her thigh bone while travelling in India, and the injury later became infected with CRE (Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae), a bacterium often found in the gut. Doctors attempted to treat her with 26 different antibiotics without success.

A wake-up call

Scientists have been warning for years that we will return to a pre-antibiotic era if we continue to over prescribe them, as was demonstrated in this case. The UK Government’s Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, published last year, warned that unless urgent action is taken, antibiotic-resistant infections could kill one person every three seconds by 2050. This unfortunate occurrence must be a wake-up call for us to take the threat of antibiotic resistance very seriously. We should increase our efforts to cut the non-essential use of antibiotics, both in human medicine in agriculture.

Farm animals and antibiotic resistance 

Carbapenems (antibiotics used for the treatment of infections known or suspected to be caused by multidrug-resistant bacteria) are not used in farm animals in Europe. Yet many of the antibiotics to which this infection was resistant, including the tetracyclines, aminoglycosides and the last-resort antibiotic colistin, are used much more widely in farming than in human medicine. We can’t know for sure whether veterinary antibiotic use contributed, in part, to the resistance found in this instance. Nevertheless, this should be a warning for all sectors, and we should all be aiming to reduce antibiotic use as soon as possible.

The fact that is worrying. Particularly when we consider that antibiotics are often used routinely to prevent infection rather than to treat it. Routine preventative antibiotic use should not be used as a replacement for good animal welfare. Antibiotics should only be used - in humans and animals - when it is necessary to treat illnesses. Find out more about our antibiotics campaign.