The bacteria strain was detected in a Pennsylvania woman and has proven resistant to the antibiotic colistin, “the antibiotic of last resort for particularly dangerous types of superbugs.” Such bacteria can kill up to half those infected with it.
While the particular strain found in the woman can be treated with other antibiotics, “researchers worry that its colistin-resistance gene, known as mcr-1, could spread to other bacteria that can already evade other antibiotics.”
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tom Frieden, said in an interview that this development “basically shows us that the end of the road isn’t very far away for antibiotics—that we may be in a situation where we have patients in our intensive care units, or patients getting urinary-tract infections for which we do not have antibiotics.”
“I’ve been there for TB patients,” he continued. “I’ve cared for patients for whom there are no drugs left. It is a feeling of such horror and helplessness. This is not where we need to be” (ibid.).
Lance Price, director of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center and a George Washington University professor, said in a statement about the case: “It’s hard to imagine worse for public health in the United States. We may soon be facing a world where CRE [antibiotic-resistant bacteria] infections are untreatable.”
Researchers and medical personnel have increasingly warned in recent years that the spread of such antibiotic-resistant bacteria may lead to a situation in which minor infections and routine operations could easily become life-threatening crises.
Almost on cue, health officials in the United Kingdom announced that “a super-resistant form” of the sexually transmissible disease gonorrhea “is cutting a swath through straight and gay communities” there (Miriam Stoppard, “Why Outbreak of Super Gonorrhoea Is Proving Difficult to Contain,” The Mirror, June 2, 2016).
Officials reported that this new strain can resist medicine’s most powerful antibiotics, so it is being treated with a combination of two drugs. However, the bacterium has developed resistance to one of the drugs, and experts say it will inevitably develop resistance to the other—at which point no other antibiotics would be available. Public Health England described the growing crisis as a “perfect storm scenario” (ibid.).
Such developments remind us of Jesus Christ’s prophecy of “pestilences”—disease epidemics—that will plague the world in the time leading up to His return (Matthew 24:7). These things “are the beginning of sorrows” (verse 8), leading up to a time when all human life will be threatened with extinction (verses 21-22). We need to be continually aware of where world trends are taking us. To learn more, read our free study guide Are We Living in the Time of the End? (Sources: The Washington Post, The Mirror.)