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New Superbug Discovered For The First Time In The U.S.

Last updated May 29, 2016

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD MPH

Jeff Hasty Lab, UC San Diego

This rather alarming case opens up the question of whether the characteristics of this rare Colistin-resistant E. coli superbug could transfer to other forms of bacteria that currently only respond to Colistin. In this case, a frightening and persistent superbug would emerge.


On Thursday May 24, 2016, the U.S. Department of Defense reported a case in which a 49-year-old woman from Pennsylvania presented with a rare form of E.coli infection. This was the first bacteria case of its kind that had been seen in the U.S. Known as a superbug, this bacteria is resistant to many antibiotics, including the drug Colistin, which is used as a last resort. 

After visiting a clinic in Pennsylvania, the woman was transferred to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where the bacteria were found in her urine. However, it remains unclear how the bacteria entered her system or how she contracted it, as she had not traveled outside of the United States within a five-month period. The superbug has been previously seen in Canada, Europe and China. 

According to Dr. Alex Kallen of the CDC, the woman was released after she was treated and had no other known complications due to the superbug. He characterized this case as a “warning sign, more than a catastrophe.” 

This rather alarming case opens up the question of whether the characteristics of this rare Colistin-resistant E. coli superbug could transfer to other forms of bacteria that currently only respond to Colistin. In this case, a frightening and persistent superbug would emerge. 

DoveMed has previously reported on these so called “superbugs” and the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. According to a conservative estimate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), annually, more than 2 million people become sick with antibiotic resistant infections with at least 23,000 deaths occurring as a consequence.

The CDC has established recommendations for doctors and healthcare workers regarding how to not overprescribe antibiotics. Preventing multidrug/antibiotic resistance in bacteria has to be a collective effort on the part of patients and healthcare workers alike.

References: 

Christensen, J., & Goldschmidt, D. (2016 May 27). A dreaded superbug found for the first time in a U.S. woman. Available from http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/26/health/first-superbug-cre-case-in-us/ 

Frieden, T. (2013 Apr 23). Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/pdf/ar-threats-2013-508.pdf 

Sarkar, M. (2015 Apr 1). The Making of Superbugs: How Real is the Threat? Available from http://www.dovemed.com/current-medical-news/making-superbugs-how-real-threat/ 

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: May 29, 2016
Last updated: May 29, 2016