An antibiotic-resistant 'superbug' is in the U.S., but don't panic yet

May 30, 2016 at 11:58 p.m. ET
Image: Skynesher/GettyImages

While most of us were out enjoying the first days of summer over the holiday weekend, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control was monitoring a potentially dangerous "superbug" that could eventually render antibiotics useless against disease.

According to a report filed by the U.S. Department of Defense, a 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman was found to have a strain of the E. coli infection that resists the effects of all antibiotics, including Colistin, an antibiotic used when no others work.

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The woman was treated and released, but experts still don't know where she contracted the infection. This particular "superbug" has been identified in Europe, China and Canada in the past, but the woman hadn't traveled outside the United States in the past several months. The same strain was found in a single sample taken from a pig intestine, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently doing more testing to find out where it came from.

Medical experts are worried that the resistant bacteria could latch on to other bacteria and mutate into something that can't be tamed with antibiotics like Colistin, resulting in widespread disease and death. That said, the CDC said in the report that while it's cause for concern, it's not catastrophic right now.

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"It basically shows us that the end of the road isn’t very far away for antibiotics — that we may be in a situation where we have patients in our intensive care units, or patients getting urinary-tract infections for which we do not have antibiotics," CDC director Tom Frieden said last week, according to CNN.

"I’ve been there for TB patients. I’ve cared for patients for whom there are no drugs left. It is a feeling of such horror and helplessness," Frieden added. "This is not where we need to be."

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