Another Death Reported in NIH “Superbug” Outbreak

A “superbug” strain of a potent virus has claimed the life of a seventh person at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Maryland.

According to an Associated Press report, a boy from Minnesota who was taken to the hospital following complications resulting from bone marrow transplant surgery is the latest victim of the outbreak of the superbug Klebsiella pneumoniae (KPC) virus. He died on Sept. 7, more than a full year after the initial case of the virus was discovered.

Six people have previously lost their lives after becoming infected with the antibiotic-resistant strain of the virus after they were admitted to the hospital. This is the first case of infection at the hospital since January. A total of 19 people have been infected with KPC after being admitted to the transplant ward of the NIH hospital, which had taken extreme precautions to prevent the spread of infection after the initial case last year. Eleven people, in all, have died after being infected with KPC but just seven of those deaths are being blamed exclusively on the virus. Other factors, including the health of the patients, are being blamed for the other four deaths or it could not be confirmed that the virus killed the patient.

It was just more than a month ago that details first emerged regarding the deadly bacterial outbreak at the hospital. A woman from New York in need of a lung transplant arrived at the hospital last year already infected with KPC, according to another report from The Washington Post.

To prevent the spread of infection to other patients at the hospital and to staff, NIH took precautionary measures that included segregating those infected with the virus into a specially-built wing of the hospital. Staff and attending nurses who cared for those patients were required to stay only with those patients and could not go to other areas of the facility.

Walls were constructed to contain the infected patients into a singular area. Plumbing fixtures and infrastructure that may have become infected with the virus were removed and rebuilt. The hospital hired additional staff that was charged with making sure its care staff was taking every possible precaution to prevent the spread of virus, including making sure they washed their hands. Every patient’s room at the hospital was “blasted” with a disinfecting vaporizer as an additional precautionary measure.

The hospital believed that as new infections subsided that they had gained control of the outbreak but that may not be the case in light of this new case. Testing in July determined that the 7-year-old boy had acquired the infection and he was treated as the others were who had been infected.

The reports indicate that the deceased boy likely had other factors contribute to his death and even to him acquiring the infection. He arrived at the hospital after experiencing complications from a bone marrow transplant. His immune system was deficient and was taking steroids that only weakened that system more.

The infection appeared to be vulnerable to one type of antibiotic during the first week he was treated with it but that drug proved to be powerless in the weeks after that treatment. An “experimental” antibiotic used by NIH also failed before the boy succumbed to the virus.


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