NIH Clinic Outbreak Kills Again

A seventh patient succumbs to a deadly, drug-resistant superbug terrorizing the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center.

By | September 20, 2012

Nathan Reading" > Klebsiella pneumoniae on cystine lactose electrolyte deficient agarWikimedia, Nathan Reading

Earlier this month (September 7), the seventh person in just over a year lost his life due to infection by an antibiotic-resistant strain of the bacterium Klebsiella pneumoniae. The deadly infection first struck at the Bethesda, Maryland-based National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in August 2011 when a woman from New York in need of a lung transplant was killed. Five more victims followed over the next 6 months, but the latest fatality—a young boy from Minnesota—suggests that the lethal bacterium has not yet left the building.

NIH researchers used whole genome sequencing to confirm that the boy’s death was a result of the same strain of K. pneumonia. “This kid probably got this infection because a patient who was a carrier [of the superbug] was on the same unit,” John Gallin, the director of the clinical center, told The Washington Post. “There was undoubtedly some intrahospital transmission despite our best efforts.”

Those efforts included isolating infected patients, using vaporized disinfectant in patient rooms, replacing plumbing that officials suspected harbored the superbug, and hiring people to oversee doctors and nurses as they scrubbed their hands prior to seeing patients. When no new infections arose between January and July of this year, researchers thought they had the bacterium, which is impervious to all known antibiotics and at least one experimental one, under control. But on July 25, the boy tested positive for the superbug. In total, 19 patients were infected and 11 died, though only seven of those deaths could be directly attributed to the bacterium.

The researchers published their findings last month (August 22) in Science Translational Medicine—the first time the outbreak was made public.

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Avatar of: Mike Lewinski

Mike Lewinski

Posts: 1

September 20, 2012

Trying to sterilize the environment might be the wrong approach. I understand the newish field of "indoor ecology" would have the hospitals open their windows and let in wild microbes who can compete with pathogens and keep them from taking over.

Certainly there are risks with this and I don't know how to balance the risk of Klebsiella pneumoniae escaping sooner rather than later. If we accept it will get out eventually, then perhaps opening the windows now is the right move.

Avatar of: EllenHunt


Posts: 74

September 20, 2012

This makes a great grad student article. We sequenced the genome. We know what it is. Wonderful.

And I will bet that not one of those patients was put in hyperbaric oxygen, even though that is the single most effective way to treat any out of control infection. Physicians today are not taught anything about it. The costs at hospitals are outrageous, $2500 per hour is normal. It costs approximately $15 worth of oxygen to treat someone for an hour at 3 bar. Private clinics can deliver it quite profitably for $150 per hour. It's an outrageous scandal.

This is our future. We are going to run out of antibiotics. The golden age of antibiotic medicine is over and we are on the downslope.

I will also note that the measures they use, sequestration and anti-bacterials creates an environment free of competitors for the worst of these strains of bacteria. See Paul Ewald.

But medicine is one of the slowest, most hidebound, unresponsive professions on earth.

Avatar of: RAMESH


Posts: 1

September 22, 2012

Apart from this we should also try Phycocyanin, Astaxanthin, Ashwagandha, which can stimulate Immune system, brings down inflammation, kills bacteria directly. Also what prevents us the ultimate tool SILVER in IV route to kill bacteria apart from OZONE. Still clinging on Antibiotics is FOOLISH.

Avatar of: Will661


Posts: 1

October 8, 2012

Not certain if this is relevant to this discussion at this point but would like to comment anyway. The article states no new infections arose between January and July. My mother, Ronda Rae Stine died of antibiotic resistant Klebsiella Pneumoniae in Bakersfield, CA, on March 13, 2012. She contracted the bacteria at San Joaquin Community Hospital and passed away after several failed attempts to remove her from ventilator failed and we, her family opted for palliative care.

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