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First U.S. Patient Diagnosed with ‘Nightmare Bacteria’ Superbug Infection

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President Obama released The National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in March 2015. It is intended as a guide for “rising to the challenge of antibiotic resistance and potentially saving thousands of lives.” There are a number of goals outlined; maintain antibiotic efficacy; combat the emergence of new resistant bacteria; prevent and contain outbreaks of infections resistant to bacteria; develop and implement new vaccines, antibiotics, and diagnostic tools. Three agencies, the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department of Defense (DoD), and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are tasked with chairing an advisory council and undertaking work on the project.

This week, HHS announced that some critical discoveries have been made by the group. The first colistin-resistant mcr-1 E. coli infection in a woman in the United States has been identified. Colistin is a rarely used, last-resort drug for treating people with multi-drug resistant infections. An HHS and USDA search for colistin-resistant bacteria in retail meats, food animals and people has also found colistin-resistant E. coli in a single sample from a pig intestine. The patient was treated in an outpatient military treatment facility in Pennsylvania. Biological specimens were taken and sent to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for initial testing, followed by genetic sequencing to identify the mcr-1 gene.

The HHS is following up with both the patient and anyone who came into contact with her to make sure they are not at risk, as well as tracing the farm of origin of the infected pig. The HHS and USDA work in partnership and continue to look for colistin-resistant bacteria in the US as the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS).