MRSA, a bug resistant to many antibiotics. IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

Fifteen years ago, US public health officials declared that infections resistant to antibiotics could become a major threat. That threat, it seems, has arrived.

Nevada public health officials are reporting that a woman died in September of a so-called superbug infection. The infection, which had spread throughout her entire system, could fend off 26 different antibiotics. That number represents every antibiotic that might have cured it in the United States.

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It isn’t the first time a person in the US has died from a superbug infection. But while it’s difficult to know exactly how many people are succumbing to deadly superbugs, cases are still thought to be relatively rare.

In this particular case, the woman suffered from Klebsiella pneumoniae, a bug that often causes urinary tract infections. Tests at the hospital showed she was resistant to all 14 drugs the hospital had available. A sample sent to the CDC in Atlanta for further testing found that no other antibiotics in the US would have done the trick, either.

The woman had broken her femur while in India, where superbugs are considerably more common. She was hospitalized a number of times for an infection in the bone over several years. Her case was reported Thursday in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, which is published by the CDC.

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Perhaps the scariest thing of all, however, is that because state and federal agencies are doing a poor job keeping track of superbug deaths, we really have no idea just how many other cases like this exist.

[STAT News]