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Death of Reno woman from septic shock after all antibiotics fail

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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the U.S. has reported the death of a Reno, Nevada, woman in her 70s from septic shock, after contracting an infection that was resistant to all antibiotics. This comes on the heel of warnings about carbapenem-resistant Enterbacteriaceae (CRE) bacteria that is resistant to all currently available antibiotics.

The strain of bacteria that caused the Reno woman’s death is known as Klebsiella pneumoniae. Not all strains of Klebsiella pneumoniae are CRE, but the strain that infected the Nevada woman was resistant to all available antibiotics.

An NIH-funded study published online in January 2017 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) details accounts of CRE bacteria isolated from patients with infections at four US hospitals. The researchers found a diverse array of genetic traits enabling CRE to resist antibiotics and found that these traits have a tendency to transfer easily among various CRE species.

Carbapenems, considered a drug of last resort when all other antibiotics have failed to stop CRE, which tends to spread in hospitals and long-term care facilities. CRE, or “nightmare bacteria,” caused an estimated 9,300 infections and 600 deaths in the US each year according to the CDC and the number of incidents is starting to rise.

“While the typical focus has been on treating sick patients with CRE-related infections, our new findings suggest that CRE is spreading beyond the obvious cases of the disease,” says William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, which conducted the NIH-funded study along with the Broad Institute of MIT.

Professor Laura J. V. Piddock of the Antimicrobial Agents Research Group, School of Immunity and Infection, College of Medical and Dental Sciences at the University of Birmingham in the U.K., says that new antibiotics are needed: “Meaningful incentives for pharmaceutical companies have been suggested to encourage them to re-enter this area of drug development; these incentives include models to push companies to develop these drugs by making it economically viable so as to pull companies back to this area as well as alternative routes of funding.”

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