Researchers hopeful to find antibiotic cure for rare ‘superbug’

5:39 p.m Friday, May 27, 2016 Local

The military research team responsible for discovering bacteria resistant to a last-resort antibiotic is telling the public it’s not time to panic.

On Thursday, researchers announced a 49-year-old woman from Pennsylvania was found to have an E. coli strain that resists Colistin, an antibiotic prescribed when all others have failed to cure an infection.

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Scientists from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research say the finding is disturbing but does not mean it’s the end of antibiotics as we know it.

Patrick McGann, the chief of Molecular Research and Diagnostics for the Institute’s Multi Drug Resistance Surveillance network says the rare discovery came after the first six bacteria samples were tested.

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McGann says the strain of bacteria was found seven months ago overseas but had been around for a while.

“Once people knew it existed you started seeing it everywhere,” McGann said.

The real fear, he says, is that if it mutates and spreads it would make treating infections difficult with current treatments.

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“It’s more and more likely this is a very rare gene within the population,” McGann said, ”which is good because we’re at the very outset and we can put in population control measures.”

Researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research started six years ago studying drug-resistant bacteria found in wounds of returning military service members.

Deputy Director for the Institute’s drug resistance surveillance network Lt. Col. Kate Hinkle said the discovery should help develop future antibiotics and treatments.

“This type of finding shouldn’t be seen as a moment for panic,” Hinkle said. “This is exactly what the MRSN and other surveillance networks were set up to do.”

The researchers say the United States has control measures already in place in trying to stop the spread of this kind of bacteria.