CDC microbiologist Johannetsy Avillan displays a petri dish culture plate used to test for CRE bacteria resistance in 2014. Photo by James Gathany, courtesy CDC Public Health Image Library

CDC microbiologist Johannetsy Avillan displays a petri dish culture plate used to test for CRE bacteria resistance . Photo by James Gathany, courtesy CDC Public Health Image Library

To scientists and health professionals, colistin is considered a last-resort antibiotic to treat the most aggressive infections.

But when Walter Reed National Military Medical Center researchers identified E. coli that was resistant to colistin in an American woman this spring, it not only added a new chapter to the public health nightmare of antibiotic resistance, it fueled an ongoing fire underneath researchers worldwide to develop new drugs and therapies to stave off what they see as a post-antibiotic era.

At least 2 million illnesses a year are linked to antibiotic resistance, which occurs when bacteria become able to resist the effects of an antibiotic. It also leads to at least 23,000 deaths annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Visit The Nation’s Health online to continue reading this story from the Oct. 2016 issue.