Wyoming resident has rare, drug-resistant infection, department of health says

A Laramie County, Wyoming resident has a rare, antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection, the state department of health said Wednesday.

The patient, who has not been identified, is receiving treatment at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center. An organism known as an Enterobacteriaceae is infecting the patient, and recent tests showed the organism “also included a rare antibiotic-resistant gene known as MCR-1,” the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) said in a news statement.

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MCR-1 is a “gene that can make bacteria resistant to colistin, an old antibiotic that is the last-resort drug for some multidrug-resistant infections,” the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains online. The gene was first reported in the U.S. in 2016 but was discovered in China a year prior. It has since been found in both animals and humans, according to the CDC.

“When bacteria become antibiotic-resistant, then certain categories of antibiotic medicines will not work to kill the bacteria to treat an infection. In this case, the organism found is resistant to a category of antibiotics sometimes described as ‘last resort’ medications used to fight infections,” Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with the health department, said in a statement, adding the gene “has been identified in only a handful of states over the past few years.”

The gene can be found in “common bacteria” such as E.coli, Clay Van Houten, the infectious disease epidemiology unit manager with the WDH, told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. He noted the gene can spread through common bacteria found in feces or through those with respiratory infections.

Officials at the hospital are working to prevent the spread of bacteria; those who enter the patient’s room have to wear protective gloves and clothing in addition to following “strict hand washing practices,” the WDH said.

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The patient likely did not contract the infection at the hospital, the department of health said. Harrist added local residents should not be worried for their health.

It is not clear where or how the patient contracted the infection but he or she has “responded to treatment” and is doing well, the WDH said.

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