In early August 2016, a woman was admitted to a hospital in Reno, Nevada with an incurable infection after an extended visit to India. The testing revealed she was infected with a superbug resistant to the 26 available antimicrobial drugs in the United States. None of them were effective and unfortunately, the patient died in early September.
This is the first reported case of death from a superbug resistant to 26 antibiotics.
THE ORIGINS OF THE INFECTION
An official report has been published by the Washoe County Health District of Nevada on the 13th of January 2017 about the case of a woman from Washoe County in her 70s who died from a superbug resistant to 26 antibiotics. Indeed, two years before the hospitalization in the United States, she was admitted to hospital several times during her trip to India because of a right femur fracture, which later caused a bone infection in her femur extended to her hip.
Once she went back to the United States in August 2016, she went to a hospital in Reno (Nevada) for care, where doctors detected an infection with carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), more specifically the Klebsiella pneumoniae. After several tests, the bacterium was found to be resistant to the 26 antibiotics available in the American hospitals, even to the ones used as a last resort when the others failed.
THE NIGHTMARE BACTERIA
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified the CRE as the most resistant bacteria to all available antibiotics and is even called “nightmare bacteria” by the CDC Director Tom Frieden, because of its ability to spread antibiotic resistance.
“The CRE […] are a family of germs that are difficult to treat because they have high levels of resistance to antibiotics, including last-resort antibiotics called carbapanems. Klebsiella species and E. coli are examples of Enterobacteriaceae, a normal part of the human gut bacteria, that can become carbapenem-resistant by breaking down the carbapenems and making them ineffective.”–
In addition to that, K. pneumoniae causes some respiratory tract infections, especially in patients with diabetes, elderly people or alcoholics.
A GLOBAL ACTION PLAN TO FIGHT AGAINST ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE
On the occasion of the World Antibiotic Awareness Week in mid-November 2016, health institutions and organizations recalled that since the discovery of Penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928, the antibiotic research has not evolved at the same rate of bacteria. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “without urgent action, we are heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill”. Before it is too late, our responsibility is to take actions to prevent and fight against antimicrobial resistance, which could kill more than 10 million people a year by 2050.
Therefore, several communication campaigns were launched in order to raise awareness among the general public against antimicrobial resistance and encourage them to learn more about it. These campaigns were also designed to urge governments to consider this threat as one of their top priorities.
For this specific purpose the DIAGORAS project contributed to the exhibition “Antibiotics: how much longer?” which retraces the research history of antibiotics from 1928 up to nowadays. The exhibition will be accessible in the Natural History Museum of Rotterdam until the 21st of May 2017.
The DIAGORAS project gathers a European team of experts from different fields such as medicine, engineering, industry and communication to find a solution to antibiotic resistance before it’s too late. Our mission is to conceive and develop a device able to diagnose oral and respiratory tract infections and identify antibiotic resistance, which will help health workers to deliver a personalised treatment for each patient.
 Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, chaired by Jim O’Neill, December 2014, p.6, https://amr-review.org/sites/default/files/AMR%20Review%20Paper%20-%20Tackling%20a%20crisis%20for%20the%20health%20and%20wealth%20of%20nations_1.pdf