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Learn More About the Recent Superbug Case in Pennsylvania

Jason C. Gallagher, PharmD, President, Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists describes the recent case of an antibiotic resistant “superbug” in Pennsylvania.

Jason C. Gallagher, PharmD, FCCP, FIDSA, BCPS, President, Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists describes the recent case of an antibiotic resistant “superbug” in Pennsylvania.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)

“This case was reported in a woman in Pennsylvania. She was a 49-year old woman with a urinary tract infection. This has received a lot of press because this bacteria had not been described in the United States before. The bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) is extremely common. All of us have it in our guts. Normally it does nothing. It basically is a colonizer that doesn’t harm us. But, sometimes it can invade other tissues, or spill over into, most commonly, the urinary tract where it can lead to an infection such as her urinary tract infection. That part is not unique.

What’s unique about [this case] is that this one was extremely drug-resistant and it’s the first known case of this type of resistance in the United States. The resistance type is called mcr-1. That’s the gene that encodes for resistance to colistin, which is an antibiotic of last resort. What makes this unique and so press-worthy isn’t really that it’s resistant to colistin. It’s that the type of resistance is encoded on a plasmid. A plasmid is a mobile piece of DNA that bacteria can exchange between each other, and that would be catastrophic if this was able to be exchanged to other types of bacteria.

Previously, while colistin-resistance in itself is not new (it’s been in the United States for many years in other bacteria), this is the first time that we know of that it’s been in E. coli and on a plasmid [in the United States].”