A virulent bacterium, untreatable by most antibiotics, has killed a seventh person at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Maryland.
According to the Washington Post, nineteen people who have been admitted to the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, have been infected with a virulent ‘superbug’ and seven people have so far died since August 2011.
The causative agent is a strain of the bacterium Klebsiella pneumoniae (called KPC, with the ‘C’ standing for carbapenem-resistant). This particular strain is resistant to antibiotics. The bacterium is multi-drug resistant because it is able to transfer genetic elements, pieces of DNA, into other bacteria and build up resistance.
Klebsiella bacteria are a leading cause of health-care-associated infections, including pneumonia. Patients breathing with the help of ventilators, hooked up to catheters and taking long courses of certain antibiotics are at the highest risk for the infections.
The Wall Street Journal reports that National Institutes of Health (NIH) officials reported that the most recent victim was a boy from Minnesota, who died on Sept. 7. NIH says the boy arrived at the research hospital in Bethesda in April and was being treated for complications from a bone marrow transplant when he contracted the bacterium.
Genetic analysis has shown the boy’s strain matched that of the super-bug that arrived last year.
The outbreak stemmed from a patient who had been carrying the super-bug and who arrived at the hospital during the summer of 2011. The hospital was criticized by state officials at this time for failing to notify authorities about the outbreak quickly enough (and for only announcing the super-bug via a science journal). Most of the cases related to the summer and fall months of 2011, with the last case, until the most recent one, being reported in January 2012.
Hospital officials had believed that various actions taken during 2011, including the use of isolation wards for patients suspected of carrying the super-bug, had been effective in eliminating it. It appears that these actions have not been as effective as first thought.