Move over Zika, there is a brand new health scare in town. On Friday, it was announced that there has been the first reported case of a rare superbug that is resistant to many different kinds of antibiotics. But what does it mean when a bug is resistant to antibiotics? What does that mean for our health? And what is the superbug?
According to The Washington Post the superbug is the kind of bacteria that doctors have been dreading. Sounds pleasant and not scary at all. The superbug is actually a rare strain of E. Coli but unlike E. Coli, which can be treated with antibiotics, the superbug is resistant to a lot of them. This includes Colistin, which is an antibiotic used as the last possible chance on dangerous types of superbugs when other antibiotics do not work.
The superbug was found in the urine of a 49-year-old woman from Pennsylvania, but according to CNN, there is no indication of how the woman got the bacteria, making the superbug even scarier. However, despite its resistance to last-resort antibiotics like Colistin, The Washington Post reports that the strain of E. Coli is still treatable with other antibiotics.
According to CNN, one of the most concerning things about the superbug is that it could "jump" to other bacteria that is resistant to Colistin, or mcr-1, and create an even larger, more unstoppable force and putting the "super" in superbug.
While some reports are saying that the strain of E. Coli is a CRE, or a carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, — which is a family of bacteria that includes Salmonella, others are saying that is not the case. According to Ars Technica, the superbug is only in the Enterobacteriaceae family and is not resistant to carbapenem.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services reports that they found a similar Colistin-resistant E. Coli in a pig intestine in the United States — but there is no reported correlation between the woman and the pig intestine. There have been other reported cases in Canada and Europe but the HHS is focusing on targeting how to stop the superbug in its tracks.
According to the HHS, the detection of the superbug will provide new hints into how "super" it is but also brings attention to how much scientists still do not know about Colistin resistant bacteria.
Furthermore, Ars Technica reports that while the superbug is not good news, it is also not as catastrophic as others are reporting. According to the website, "there are several last resort antibiotics and doctors can try different combinations and strengths of prescription."
With its brand new status, there is so much more we have yet to know or learn about the superbug and what it means for doctors, our immune systems, and the current state of antibiotics.