A 70 year old woman tragically died in Nevada last year, due to a particularly severe bacterial infection that was resistant to all 26 antibiotic drugs available in the U.S. to treat the infection. According to a detailed report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this case highlights the beginning of a potential global health crisis which would render antibiotics useless against increasingly resistant strains of bacteria. This is known as antibiotic resistance.
The ill-fated woman who had just returned to the U.S. was admitted to an acute care hospital in Reno on August 18 with an infection in her hip after a prolonged trip to India lasting 2 years. After a series of tests found her resistant to the entire national arsenal of antibiotics, she died only a few weeks later in early September, due to septic shock and multiple organ failures caused by the incessant infection.
The culpable bacteria identified by doctors as Klebsiella pneumoniae, is a form of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), which is considered rare in the U.S., with only 175 cases of infection being reported to the CDC as of January 2017. It is predicted that K.pneumoniae entered the woman’s bone, and subsequently traveled to her hip, after she experienced an unfortunate femur fracture in India. That is to say that the infection originated in India, and found its way into the U.S.
Antibiotic Resistance: A Global Health Crisis In the Making
Alarmingly, the emergence of antibiotic resistance by way of multiresistant bacteria is not a novel phenomenon. These so called, “superbugs” — which have evolved to become resistant to multiple forms of antibiotics — are becoming more and more evident in newer cases of bacterial infection. In a British report, The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, it was estimated that globally, 700,000 people die each year from infections that are drug-resistant.
“Superbugs” are born out of several reasons, most notably the misuse of antibiotics. In India specifically, there is a huge problem with the over-prescription of antibiotics, and the resulting formation of hyper-vigilant bacteria. Poor sanitation is also a major driving force in creating “superbugs”, making economically disadvantaged communities exceedingly vulnerable to fatal bacterial infections.
The U.S. also has its own serious issue with “superbugs”, where they are estimated to be responsible for 23 000 deaths and 2 million illnesses every year. Gonorrhea, CREs, and strains of tuberculosis are all bacterial infections that do not respond to the current drugs available for treatment.
Stopping the Superbugs: Antibiotics are Not for Widespread Use
What remains clear is that antibiotic resistance is a pervasive health concern across the world. Scientific professionals all seem to suggest that antibiotics need to stop being so haphazardly prescribed to patients, and inserted into food for enhanced growth and cultivation. Travel plans should also be more explicitly discussed and accounted for by healthcare providers.
While increased research should focus on understanding the varying structures and mechanisms of “superbugs”, it is apparent that in the never-ending arms race between bacteria and antibiotics, bacteria seem to have the distinctive edge. This is why, a sustainable solution to this gaping problem, is likely to do with managing antibiotic use, rather than outfoxing resistant bacteria altogether.
“People keep asking me, how close are we to going off the cliff,” Dr. James Johnson, professor of infectious diseases medicine at the University of Minnesota, told npr. “We’re off the cliff. It’s already happening. People are dying. It’s right here, right now. Sure, it’s going to get worse. But we’re already there.”
Dr. Johnson’s bleak insight into multiresistant bacteria is wildly apparent in the incurable infection that lead to the devastating death of the Nevada woman last year. It is now absolutely critical that antibiotics are prescribed with caution, and ingested responsibly, as we’ve already entered a dangerous territory.
As a potential patient, you can protect yourself from “superbugs”, and a compromised immune system, with a wide variety of immune boosting substances, and natural antibiotics. You can find plenty of resources here!
Ahmed, B. (2015 October 21). India’s Antibiotic-Resistant Superbug Problem Is Spreading. Retrieved from https://thinkprogress.org/indias-antibiotic-resistant-superbug-problem-is-spreading-507f6f414da0#.gzfr73lnf
CDC. Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae in Healthcare Settings. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2015. https://www.cdc.gov/hai/organisms/cre/
CDC. Notes from the Field: Pan-Resistant New Delhi Metallo-Beta-Lactamase-Producing Klebsiella pneumoniae — Washoe County, Nevada, 2016. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6601a7.htm
Chen L, Todd R, Kiehlbauch J, Walters M, Kallen A. Notes from the Field: Pan-Resistant New Delhi Metallo-Beta-Lactamase-Producing Klebsiella pneumoniae — Washoe County, Nevada, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:33. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6601a7.
McNeil R, Nelson DJ, Abutaleb Y. (2016 September 7). ‘Superbug’ scourge spreads as U.S. fails to track rising human toll. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-uncounted-surveillance/#sidebar-abrcdc
O’Neill, J. (2016). Tackling drug-resistant infections globally: final report and recommendations. The review on antimicrobial resistance.