Pennsylvania Woman Diagnosed with CRE Superbug

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The first confirmed case of a carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) “superbug” infection in the U.S. has been diagnosed in a 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman, according to the Department of Defense.

What’s the Problem?

May 31, 2016 – The woman was admitted to a Pennsylvania clinic, and a sample was forwarded to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where the CRE bacteria was detected in her urine. There’s still no indication of how the bacteria got into the woman’s system, and she said she has not traveled outside the U.S. within the last 5 months.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health are investigating to determine whether the patient may have passed the superbug on to others she came into contact with. The woman was treated and released and has no other medical problems related to the bacteria, according to CNN.

CRE infections have been confirmed in Europe, Canada and China; the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also identified one strain of Colistin-resistant E. coli in a single sample of a pig intestine, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). USDA is trying to determine what farm the pig came from to see whether any other animals may be infected.

The 2 cases should be seen as a “warning sign, more than a catastrophe,” according to Dr. Alex Kallen, a medical officer with the CDC.

The concern is that traits of this rare mutant strain could jump to other bacteria that respond only to Colistin, creating an antibiotic-resistant superbug. It has been suggested that these types of infections could kill up to half the people who develop them.

Antibiotic resistance has become a growing problem across the U.S. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that it is among the most pressing concerns to global health today.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden warned that although the Pennsylvania woman is the first confirmed case in the U.S., we should expect to see more such superbugs in the coming weeks and months. Frieden, who often warns against the overuse of antibiotics, urged scientists to develop new medications rapidly.

“The medicine cabinet is empty for some patients,” Frieden said. “It is the end of the road unless we act urgently.”

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