News Headlines Article

A Visual Guide to Antibiotic Resistance
Scientific American

The growing threat of drug resistant bacteria appears fairly frequently in the news, with the latest moment of crisis centered around one patient in Pennsylvania. Last week it was revealed that the strain of Escherichia coli infecting this woman’s urinary tract proved resistant to a medication called colistin. Fortunately, the bacteria associated with this particular infection did respond to other drugs besides colistin, and the patient has recovered.

New antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria emerge all the time, and this is not the first instance of colistin resistance in the United States, so what makes this case so alarming? The answer is twofold. First, colistin has long been regarded as a trusty last resort when all other antibiotics fail. Second, the genetic makeup of this strain of E. coli makes it easy for one bacterium to share its colistin resistance with others, so it can spread quite rapidly—even to other species.