US woman infected by drug-resistant bacteria; dies

The case, once again, brings to light the building antibiotic resistance in the world—often called a ticking time bomb

By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Tuesday 17 January 2017 | 05:50:50 AM

Misuse and overuse of antibiotics is rampant in medicine, animal husbandry and other sectors

An American woman has died after being infected by a highly drug resistant bacteria, allegedly in India. The 70-year-old stayed in India for two years and was hospitalised four times due to bone fractures.

The bacteria responsible for the fatal infection is carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) which has been referred to as “nightmare bacteria”. The bacteria is not new to the US, yet, no known antibiotic could subside it.

The case, once again, brings to light the building antibiotic resistance in the world—often called a ticking time bomb. Treatable diseases have turned fatal again. As per government data, around 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics every year in USA. At least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. Many more people die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection.

Misuse and overuse of antibiotics is rampant in medicine, animal husbandry and other sectors. Worldwide, antibiotic consumption is on the rise. “Although carbapenems are expensive, sales in Egypt, India, and Pakistan have increased with over-thecounter availability. Non-prescription antibiotic use is common in many low- and middle income countries, where ensuring that people who truly need antibiotics have access while discouraging unnecessary use is a challenge,” says a 2013 Lancet report.

 Non-prescription use accounts for 19–100 per cent of antibiotic use outside northern Europe and North America, the report says.

Resistance scenario in India

Antibiotic resistance getting worse in India, but little media attention has been given to the problem. The use of antibiotics is increasing nationwide. Between 2005 and 2009, 40 per cent more units of antibiotics were sold in the country. Powerful drugs like newer generation cephalosporins are sold far more frequently for no apparent reason—between 2005 and 2009, sales of cephalosporins increased 60 per cent.

Resistance monitoring in India is also inadequate. India does not have standardised national data on resistance rates and everything we know about resistance comes from a few reports from hospitals and communities. From all studies in India with 30 isolates or more, resistance rates of E coli (bacteria) to third-generation cephalosporins (new powerful drugs) were 82 per cent and to fluoroquinolones was 86.4 per cent.

Apart from increased use in medicine, use of antibiotics in production of food animals is also unregulated. A recent investigation by CSE found fisheries in West Bengal using antibiotics for non-therapeutic purposes.

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