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A Terrifying Drug-Resistant Superbug Has Cropped Up in the U.S.

Escherichia coli bacteria, SEM
Regular old E. coli. Photo: PASIEKA/Getty Images

A bacteria that’s every health official and doctor’s worst nightmare has officially arrived in the United States. Last month, doctors found a strain of E. coli that is completely resistant to all antibiotics in a 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman. Basically, there’s nothing doctors have right now that can treat it, not even colistin, which the Washington Post calls the “drug of last resort” for these types of infections. 

Doctors have feared the emergence of these “superbugs,” particularly in hospital settings, but researchers first came across this particular colistin-resistant bacteria last year in pigs and people in China. The superbug cropped up a few other places, but this is the first time the bacteria’s been found in the United States. CDC investigators are trying to figure out how this woman became infected, where this bacteria might have come from, and if anyone else is walking around with this apocalyptic-sounding superbug. (Health officials haven’t released details about the woman, and if she survived.) Tom Frieden, the head of the CDC told the Post that this discovery “basically shows us that the end of the road isn’t very far away for antibiotics,” which isn’t terrifying at all. 

A Drug-Resistant Superbug Is Now in the U.S.