New superbug infection identified in Houston

Superbugs are deadly forms of bacterial infection that cannot be treated with some, or all, antibiotics. Most people have read with horror when there have been outbreaks of these infections, which sometimes have frightening names, like flesh-eating bacteria and MRSA.

Klebsiella pneumoniae (K. pneumoniae) is a deadly form of bacteria that causes serious health problems, including pneumonia and bloodstream infections like sepsis. It is one of the most common causes of infections in hospitalized patients in America. K. pneumoniae is called a superbug when the strain is resistant to common antibiotic medications.

These infections are usually spread through person-to-person contact in hospitals or healthcare settings.

In my experience as a Texas medical malpractice lawyer, I have seen cases in which superbugs infected people when hospital staff used improper personal or equipment sanitary techniques.

Patients can be infected if they are touched in a wound or body fluid by someone that has the bacteria on her hand. The infection can also spread through medical equipment, such as ventilators, breathing tubes, catheters, and surgical instruments. You can read one of my recent articles about infections spread by contaminated surgical equipment here.

Some of K. pneumoniae infections are so powerful that no antibiotic could be found to kill it before the patient dies. Earlier this year, for instance, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that a Nevada woman died from a K. pneumoniae infection, after 26 different antibiotics failed to slow or kill the infection.

Another K. pneumoniae outbreak at the National Institutes of Health’s clinical center, in Maryland, killed seven people.

The different strains of superbug K. pneumoniae

K. pneumoniae has several strains that are superbugs that cannot be treated with some, or all, antibiotics. Until recently, both in Houston and around the world, experts have focused their attention mainly on the pandemic outbreaks of the CG258 strain of K. pneumoniae. These epidemics are particularly deadly because they are drug resistant, which means that some, or all, antibiotics will not kill the infection-causing bacteria.

A recent study out Houston Methodist Hospital shows that there is an equally-deadly strain, CG307 (clonal group 307), which is also drug-resistant and has been abundant in Houston for many years, without anyone realizing it.

Experts are unclear on why this superbug strain is growing at such an alarming rate in Houston, but warn that it is dangerous.

Houston Methodist Hospital research study

From September 2011, through May 2015, researchers at Houston Methodist Hospital and other institutions studied K. pneumoniae cultures obtained from patients in the 2000-bed Houston Methodist Hospital system.

Researchers were surprised to find that more of the cultures came back positive for strain CG6307, than did for what was thought to be the more common strain, CG258 (clonal group 258).

The CG307 strain was first identified in a Dutch teaching hospital in 2008, and it has been identified sporadically in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Central and South America. There was also one hospital-based outbreak reported recently in South Korea.

Experts do not know why the CG307 strain has been abundant and concentrated in Houston for many years. It is apparently still abundant in the hospital system, along with superbug strain CG258.

Symptoms of infections

Like other infections, K. pneumoniae CG307 can cause a range of sicknesses, which are manifested by various symptoms. These symptoms include:

· Pneumonia: Symptoms may include fever, chills, flu-like symptoms, cough, unnaturally colored mucus, breathing difficulty.

· Bloodstream infections/sepsis: Symptoms may include, fever, chills, rash, light headedness, and altered mental state (not acting like yourself)

· Wound infections: Symptoms may include redness, pain or tenderness, bad smell coming from the wound, pus or drainage, fever, chills, heat at the site of the wound

· Surgical site infections: Symptoms may include fever, warmth of the surgical site, pain, tenderness, swelling, redness, delayed healing

· Meningitis: Symptoms may include fever, confusion, neck stiffness, and sensitivity to bright light

· Urinary tract infections: Symptoms may include the urge to urinate, a burning sensation when urinating, pelvic pain for women, blood in the urine, pink or cola color of the urine, the need to urinate often in small amounts, a strong smell of the urine, a cloudy-looking urine

We are here to help

If you or someone you care for has been injured by a superbug or infection, call the experienced Houston medical malpractice lawyers at Painter Law Firm for a free consultation. Our telephone number is 281-580-8800.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.