Reno woman dies after superbug resists 26 antibiotics

A superbug resistant to 26 different antibiotics – even those considered the last line of defense – is to blame for the death of a Reno, Nev., woman.

The woman, who was in her 70s, died in September, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention case report.

The woman returned to Reno after an extended visit to India in early August. Upon her return, she was admitted to the hospital with systemic inflammatory response syndrome, likely caused by an infection in her right hip. She developed septic shock and died.

In the two years prior, the woman was hospitalized multiple times in India after fracturing her right femur and subsequent infections of the bone. Her most recent hospitalization was in June.

When the woman was hospitalized in Reno, doctors discovered New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase, an enzyme that makes bacteria resistant to a broad range of antibiotics. Additional tests revealed the bacteria was resistant to all available antibiotics.

While bacteria that are resistant to all antibiotics are rare – about 80 percent remain susceptible to at least one class of antibiotics and 90 percent to another class – this type of superbug antibiotic resistance is what health officials have been warning us about for years.

“This one is the poster child because of resistance across the board,” Dr. James Johnson, professor of infectious diseases medicine at the University of Minnesota, told NPR.

“And we’re going to see more of these, from a drip, drip, drip of cases to a steady drizzle to a rainstorm,” Johnson said. “It’s scary, but it’s good to get scared if that motivates action.”

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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