A woman has died after being infected by a strain of bacteria resistant to every antibiotic available in the US.
The patient, who was in her 70s, acquired the infection after breaking her leg in India, where she was hospitalised several times, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The patient died in September last year after returning to Nevada. She had been treated in her hospital’s acute care ward with 26 different antibiotics.
“It was tested against everything that’s available in the United States... and was not effective,” Dr Alexander Kallen, a medical officer at the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told Stat.
“We have relied for so long on just newer and newer antibiotics. But obviously the bugs can often [develop resistance] faster than we can make new ones.”
While India is believed to have more antibiotic resistant superbugs than the US, the problem is considered global.
James Johnson, a doctor at the University of Minnesota, told Stat: “People have asked me many times, How scared should we be? … How close are we to the edge of the cliff? And I tell them: We’re already falling off the cliff.”
A government report published last year suggested that 10 million people around the world would be killed by superbugs by 2050, more than cancer.
In the UK, almost 10 million prescriptions for antibiotics are issued unnecessarily each year, according to health officials, who’ve warned that the whole basis of medicine could have to be rethought.
Last year, the UN’s member states signed a declaration to fight antmicrobial resistance, placing it alongside HIV and Ebola in terms of the threat it poses to human health.
Commenting on the move, Professor Dilip Nathwani OBE wrote for the Huffington Post UK:
“We have, since their discovery by Alexander Fleming in 1928, squandered [the use of antibiotics] in human and animal medicine, and in recent decades more widely across agriculture and the environment.
“This squandering has contributed in no small part to the emergence of multi-drug resistant infections for which there are increasingly few, and now sometimes, no cures. It is a health crisis that will, if not addressed, lead to the most unimaginable consequences.”