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17 October 2011

Two deaths as rare superbug stalks hospital

Nine private hospital patients have contracted a superbug that surfaced at Life Glynnwood Hospital in Benoni several weeks ago.

And at least two people who contracted the infection have since died – but medical experts say their death is not as a direct result of the infection.

The superbug – New Delhi Metallo-Beta-Lactamose (NDM1) – is resistant even to last-resort antibiotics called carbapenems, used when common antibiotics have failed.

NDM1 bacterial strain are found in E coli and in Klebsiella pneumoniae and live in the gastrointestinal tract, affecting a patient’s lungs and urinary tract. The strain impacts on the body’s ability to heal itself.

Three people are still under strict surveillance in a quarantined ward at the hospital, while four have been discharged.

Staff and relatives of the patients quarantined have been tested to see if they were infected.

The head of the outbreak response unit for hospital infections at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Professor Adrian Duse, said the local source of the infection was still not known.

The NDM1 was carried by food and water through the mouth but also by cross-infections, from person to person.

Duse explained that it was difficult to treat as this NDM1 enzyme made organisms resistant to antibiotics.

The hospital, he noted, was using two antibiotics – Tigecycline and Colistin – to fight the infection.

NDM1 was first detected in New Delhi, India, in 2009. Later cases were found in the UK, the US, Canada and Pakistan. In Africa, the bacteria was found in Kenya and Morocco.

According to Duse, aside from the nine cases at Glynnwood Hospital, an isolated case was found at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital early last month.

However, Charlotte Maxeke CEO Dr Barney Selebano denied any knowledge of the infection.

Duse said it was found in an outpatient, who was promptly treated, which was why Selebano had not been informed.

Duse added that not everyone with the enzyme fell ill as there were cases where patients were carriers and harboured the bacteria without any symptoms. He stressed that there were no unique symptoms attributable to the bacteria.

According to Duse, who is a Wits University professor, there was no reason to believe the two patients died because of the bacteria.

Glynnwood Hospital had mobilised itself very quickly, involving international and local experts.

However, a relative of a patient, who did not wish to be named because they did not want to compromise their relative’s healthcare, said they felt that the hospital had not been communicating with the patients’ families.

“We found out by accident. No one has told us anything. We are very worried,” she said.

She did not know any other patients or how many had been affected. “It is frustrating, to say the least.”

She believed that relatives had been screened.

Duse said the protective clothing was part of the infection control measures, and surveillance was being done to ensure that infection did not spread among patients.

- The Star/IOL News