A woman in Nevada who recently returned from India died in September last year from a superbug infection resistant to 26 antibiotics.

No Available Treatment

Randall Todd, the director of epidemiology and public health preparedness for the Washoe County Health District, who co-authored a report of the case that was published in the Jan. 13 issue of CDC's journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, said that there was basically nothing in the hospital's medicine cabinet that can treat the lady.

"The Washoe County Health District in Reno, Nevada, was notified of a patient at an acute care hospital with carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) that was resistant to all available antimicrobial drugs," Todd and colleagues reported. "Antimicrobial susceptibility testing in the United States indicated that the isolate was resistant to 26 antibiotics."

CDC tests later revealed that the woman was infected with New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM), a highly resistant form of the antibiotic-resistant "superbug" CRE that she has likely contracted when she was hospitalized in India.

Growing Threat Posed By Drug Resistance

The woman's case highlights the growing dangers of drug resistance. Antimicrobial agents, which include antibiotics, have been used for the last seven decades to treat patients with infectious diseases.

The drugs, however, have been used so widely and for a long time now the pathogens that the antibiotics are designed to kill have evolved to adapt to them making the drugs less effective.

Factors That Contribute To Antibiotic Resistance

The growing problem of antibiotic resistance is being fueled by antibiotics misuse and poor infection control and prevention. One in three antibiotic prescriptions in the U.S., for instance, is considered unnecessary. Poor infection prevention and control are also to blame. In the case of the Nevada woman, for instance, doctors suspect that the facility, where the woman was admitted to overseas do not have good infection control or may not observe good hygiene.

Impact Of Resistant Infections

Doctors would have to resort to recommending second or third choice drugs for treatment when the bacteria responsible for a particular infection are resistant to the drug of choice, which makes it ineffective in treating the condition. Alternative drugs, however, could be more toxic, more expensive, and may even be less effective.

Individuals who acquire resistant infection may also need longer recovery time, may incur more medical expenses, and may die from the infection.

Figures from the World Health Organization, which has described antibiotic resistance as one of the biggest threats to global food security, health and development today, showed the extent of damages caused by resistant infections as about 700,000 people die every year because of antibiotic resistance. The number of cases, however, is predicted to increase to 10 million per year by 2050.

A growing number of infections, which include pneumonia, blood poisoning, tuberculosis, and gonorrhea have now become more difficult and even sometimes impossible to treat because of the growing ineffectiveness of antibiotics. WHO warned that without urgent action, the world is headed to a post-antibiotic era wherein common infection and small injuries may once again become deadly.

"Antibiotic resistance is putting the achievements of modern medicine at risk. Organ transplantations, chemotherapy and surgeries such as caesarean sections become much more dangerous without effective antibiotics for the prevention and treatment of infections," WHO said.

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