By Kathy Ritchie
Updated: Friday, June 10, 2016 -- For the first time, a person in the U.S. has been infected with bacteria resistant to an antibiotic used as a last resort. The woman, who is from Pennsylvania, is recovering after it was discovered she was carrying a strain of E. coli resistant to the antibiotic colistin. But public officials say this should serve as a wake-up call for everyone.
It’s something many of us take for granted— the ability to go to our doctor and get an antibiotic for something as common as a urinary tract infection. But what to do when antibiotics stop being effective?
Colistin is the antibiotic of last resort for particularly dangerous types of superbugs, including a family of bacteria known as CRE. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says infections with these germs can be extremely difficult to treat and could be deadly in up to 50 percent of patients who become infected.
Peter Pitts is the president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest. He says this one case could turn into thousands unless we do something now. "Shame on us to wait until there are bodies in street to begin to worry about this," said Pitts. "The thing about antibiotics is that we currently have a pretty good supply of various potencies, but you always need new ones. You can’t simply turn on the spigot when you think you need some and it comes out right away."
Pitts says the over-prescribing of antibiotics and the fact that there is no real incentive for companies to develop new antibiotics could lead to dire consequences.
So what does a future filled with drug-resistant superbugs look like?
"The more realistic view of this is that people get sick and have to be on a regimen of very strong antibiotics you know with very nasty side effects for extended periods of time," Pitts said.