Woman killed by superbug resistant to every available antibiotic after visit to India

Twenty-six different antimicrobials tried, but none could halt infection

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Indy Lifestyle Online

A woman has died after suffering from a superbug that was resistant to every available type of antibiotic.

The 70-year-old returned to the US state of Nevada in August 2016 after an extended trip to India, where she was reportedly been hospitalised multiple times.

Although she was admitted to a hospital's acute care ward shortly after her return, she died in September after her infection proved resistant to 26 different antibiotics.

“It was tested against everything that’s available in the United States... and was not effective,” Dr Alexander Kallen, a medical officer at the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told the health news site Stat.

“I think it’s concerning," he added. "We have relied for so long on just newer and newer antibiotics. But obviously the bugs can often [develop resistance] faster than we can make new ones.”

A few years before he death, the woman had reportedly broken her right femur – or thigh bone – during her time in India. 

Along with part of her hip, this later later became infected with CRE (carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae) - a bacteria that is commonly found in the gut that has developed a resistance to a strand of antibiotic that is often used as a last resort.

A specific enzyme, New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM), which makes bacteria resistant to a broad range of antibiotics was detected in one of her wounds, according to the CDC.

The federal agency said it considers antimicrobial resistance "one of the most serious health threats” currently facing the US.

In reaction to the death, microbiology expert Professor Laura Piddock from the University of Birmingham said: “Despite such multi-drug resistant bacteria being rare, this report is a cautionary tale of the dire outcome for some patients when potentially useful drugs are not available. 

"In circumstances such as this where doctors are faced with the inability to treat a life threatening infection they need the flexibility to use antibiotics licensed for use in other countries and shown to be active in the laboratory against the patient’s infecting bacterium.”

Prof Nigel Brown, a spokesperson for the Microbiology Society said in a statement: "This sad case is a wake-up call for the isolation and development of new classes of antibiotic.

He continued: "There is also a need for international agreements on the use of antibiotics, [since] too many countries allow medically-important antibiotics to be self-prescribed or to be used in agriculture.”

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