Super-bacteria claims two lives in Hornu; four more infected

Super-bacteria claims two lives in Hornu; four more infected

Two people have died after being infected with a multi-resistant bacteria in the Epicura hospital in Hornu near Mons. Four other patients are being treated for the same infection.

The infection is caused by Acinetobacter bachmannii, an opportunistic pathogen which attacks people with a compromised immune system. The people affected in this outbreak were patients in the hospital’s respiratory diseases department.

A. bachmannii is unusual among the acinetobacter family for being found almost exclusively in a health-care related environment. It is likely that this trait of being constantly exposed to the rigorous cleaning and disinfecting environment of a hospital that has allowed the bacteria to develop its super-resistance. It is sometimes referred to conversationally as the Iraqibacter because it seemed to emerge suddenly in medical facilities during the Iraq War in about 2003.

It is harmless for most hospital patients, for visitors and for Epicura staff,” the hospital said in a statement. “It can present a risk to patients who are very weakened. It is in no way linked to the coronavirus epidemic. Preventive measures have been put in place to limit propagation of the bacteria.”

Specifically, the intensive care unit has been closed to emergencies; the respiratory department is closed to new admissions; members of staff have been assigned uniquely to the patients affected; patients who have been infected but remain without symptoms have been isolated as has anyone who has been in contact with them; high-risk patients have been tested; cleaning procedures have been intensified.

One of the patients who died is thought to have introduced the bacteria to the hospital. Of the four remaining, three are showing symptoms, while another is infected but still healthy. The problem for medical staff is that the bacteria’s super-resistance to antibiotics means infection is very difficult to treat. The hospital said it was following the latest treatment advice issued by international authorities.

The World Health Organisation recently ranked multiple-drug resistant (MDR) organisms as one of the three most important problems facing human health.

Alan Hope

The Brussels Times

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