Cheyenne Regional Medical Center. Wyoming Tribune Eagle/file

CHEYENNE – A Cheyenne Regional Medical Center patient is being treated for a rare, drug-resistant infection, the Wyoming Department of Health reported Wednesday.

It’s the first reported case in Wyoming and officials don’t know where it originated.

The patient’s contagious infection included a new antibiotic-resistant gene known as MCR-1, first reported in the United States in May 2016. The gene has been found in both humans and animals in roughly a dozen states since.

Hospital officials believe the incident was isolated, but said they’re taking precautionary measures to identify and screen high-risk individuals.

“We all want to be extremely cautious,” said Alexia Harrist, state health officer, in a news release. “... We will review potential exposures to the organism and work to test anyone found to be at risk.”

It does not appear the illness was acquired at the hospital, and the adult patient, a Cheyenne resident, is in good condition following alternative antibiotic treatment, according to CRMC staff. Doctors expect the patient will be discharged “shortly.”

This is potentially serious, however, because even “last resort” antibiotics used to fight the infection may not kill the bacteria.

Clay Van Houten, Department of Health infectious disease epidemiology unit manager, said there’s no immediate risk to hospital patients or the public because the gene is only dangerous if it spreads to other bacteria, creating truly antibiotic-resistant infections.

“When it was first discovered in China in 2015, the fear was it would be shared with other bacteria that are already resistant to most antibiotics,” he said.

“The gene has been found in common bacteria such as E. coli. So, the bacteria spreads like usual – through feces or those with, say, respiratory infections – and the gene can spread among the bacteria.”

It doesn’t make infections more serious or easily transmitted, Van Houten said, but it does limit treatment options.

He said the gene could affect antibiotic use in the future, if not controlled.

The department is working directly with CRMC to prevent more cases by using patient contact precautions, requiring anyone entering the patient’s room to wear protective gloves and clothing, and following strict hand-washing practices.

Symptoms would depend on the type of infection a patient is being treated for, said Hoo Feng Choo, infectious disease specialist and physician at CRMC.

“Any infection can be fatal,” said Choo. “The good news is we have antibiotics that can treat them.”

Van Houten said generally staying healthy is the best way residents can protect themselves.  

“For healthy individuals, this finding isn’t impactful for their health on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

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