Entries in Bacteria (37)


Texas Woman's Legs, Fingers Amputated After Dog Bite

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(AUSTIN, Texas) -- A Texas woman is in the intensive care unit at an Austin hospital after doctors were forced to amputate her legs and fingers after a dog bite infected her with rare bacteria.

Robin Sullins, a dog lover and mother of four, was bitten while intervening in a scuffle between two family dogs on Christmas day, suffering minor cuts on her hand and leg. She was treated at a local emergency room after becoming violently ill, then transferred to University Medical Center Brackenridge on Dec. 28 as her condition rapidly deteriorated.

Capnocytophaga canimorsus, the bacteria that infected Sullins is found in the mouths of nearly a third of all healthy cats and dogs, and doctors say it is not normally dangerous.

But Sullins' case of the infection was so severe, doctors needed to amputate both of her legs below the knees, and all of her fingers except her thumb.

"What's clearly happened here is that the bacteria has gotten into the bloodstream," Dr. William Schaffner, infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center told ABC News. "Once into the blood stream it has created sepsis, a serious infection which has an effect on all the body’s regulatory and inflammatory mechanisms."

Schaffner said the sepsis caused the blood vessels in her legs and hands to close down and clot, necessitating the amputation. He also added that such a severe reaction is more common in people with an underlying illness or some sort of immune deficiency.

"Both of her legs had turned black below the knees," Robin's mother Carol Wilson told ABC News. "Her body was literally dying, her extremities were dying, it's like a horror movie -- I can't put it into words."

Robin's family is rallying to her side during this difficult time.

"Everybody is devastated, we are probably more devastated than she even is because she's got the spirit," Wilson said. "Everybody is standing by her. She has not been by herself for one minute."

"We feel very confident that not only will she walk again with prosthesis, but she is going to make the most of what she has."

Dr. Kristen Mondy, who is treating Sullins, said the prognosis for her recovery is fair.

"She is still in a tremendous amount of pain, she is still on dialysis, and I think she is potentially facing some more surgeries on her extremities. The prognosis is still favorable for her kidney function to recover," Mondy said.

Mondy also said that usually with amputations, it normally takes weeks to months before the amputated area is sufficiently healed to support prosthesis.

The family has started a website, for Sullins to raise money to cover her medical expenses and update the public on her progress. Wilson also said her daughter wanted to raise awareness for bite treatments.

"She says, 'I don't want it to happen to anybody else.' She wants the word out that if you do get a bite of any kind -- go to the doctor, get an antibiotic, get it checked out," Wilson said.

There are also precautions pet owners can take to help guard against a potential bacterial infection from a bite.

"Do daily oral care, get an animal toothbrush or edible toothbrush, followed by a regular professional cleaning as needed," said Marty Becker, a veterinarian at North Idaho Animal Hospital. "Most people let their pets lick and kiss them. By taking better care of a pet’s oral health you are taking care of the human's health by extension."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


What Lives Inside Your Belly Button?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers have found that more than 2,000 different species of bacteria live in our umbilicus – the medical word for belly button.  That means you have more kinds of bacteria in your belly button than there are different kinds of ants or birds in North America, according to the study.

The majority of these bacteria were rare and occurred in just one individual.  No single type was common to all 60 belly buttons sampled.

“I don’t find it alarming,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an expert in infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.  “We knew belly buttons weren’t sterile.”

However, Schaffner believes that this does not minimize the study’s findings.

“This is in the context of a much larger study, which is trying to … get greater insight into the source of pathogens and how the [bacteria on our body] changes with antimicrobial therapy and age.”

Perhaps, he said, we can “use this to develop new antimicrobials.”

The benefits may extend beyond antibiotics.

“Understanding the biodiversity of our bodies and how it differs among people may play an important role in understanding why some … people are susceptible to the same pathogen or respond to the same drug or diet,” said Dr. Rob Knight, associate professor of molecular biophysics at the University of Colorado – Boulder.

Although the findings of the study do not have any immediate implications, this is good timing for a public service announcement from Dr. Gregory Poland, infectious disease expert at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

“The current fad of women piercing their umbilicus has led to many case reports of infections,” Poland said. “And with today’s multiple drug-resistant bacteria, it can lead to disasters.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Beagle Sniffs Out Bacterial Infection

Hemera/Thinkstock (file photo)(NEW YORK) -- A 2-year-old beagle in the Netherlands has been trained to sniff out Clostridium difficile, a skill that could help doctors catch the deadly infection days before laboratory tests.

Clostridium difficile infections often occur in people who are already taking antibiotics, causing symptoms that range from mild diarrhea to severe inflammation of the colon.  And to make matters worse, the bug is particularly adept at spreading through hospitals, uncontrolled by the usual surface cleansers.

The clever canine, called Cliff, correctly identified 50 stool samples containing the bacterium, which kills 14,000 Americans each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Cliff also identified 47 of 50 stool samples that were Clostridium difficile-free (he couldn’t make up his mind about the last three).

Laboratory tests for Clostridium difficile -- dubbed C. diff -- can take up to 48 hours.  But Cliff gives his answer immediately by sitting or lying down.

“The sooner the clinician has a diagnosis, the better it is,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an expert in infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.  “You can also reduce the risk of transmission to other patients.”

Stool from patients with the C. diff has a characteristic smell, often likened to horse manure, which Cliff learned to identify over two months of training.  Now, he can smell the bug even without the stool, correctly identifying 25 of 30 patients with the infection and 265 of 270 without.

“We’ve always known that dogs make us feel good, but now we know that they’re good for us,” said veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, who is based in Sandpoint, Idaho, and is the author of The Healing Power of Pets and a writer for

Dogs have also been trained to sniff out cancers of the lung, bowel, skin, breast and bladder with high accuracy, and petting animals can also be therapeutic.

“We use them in our institution, largely in pediatrics, and have brought in reptiles, dogs and even miniature ponies,” said Schaffner.

However, Cliff has struggled with staying focused at work, according to the study authors.  A plastic cup, urine on the floor, excited children and the strong smell of cleaners proved distracting.

“This may not work in the context of much more hectic U.S. hospitals,” said Schaffner.  “I don’t think [dogs] will replace [existing laboratory tests].”

But Becker said the healing power of pets should not be underestimated.

“There was a time when you expected to see this kind of stuff in the tabloids,” he said.  “Now the science is there to show how it works.  What are we going to find next?”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study Finds Most Pork Contaminated with Yersinia Bacteria

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A sample of raw pork products from supermarkets around the United States found that yersinia enterocolitica, a lesser-known food-borne pathogen, was present in 69 percent of the products tested, according to a study released Tuesday by Consumer Reports.

The bacteria infects more than 100,000 Americans a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but for every case that is confirmed with a laboratory test, about 120 more cases escape diagnosis. Symptoms can include fever, cramps and bloody diarrhea.

For its sample, Consumer Reports included the same pork products millions of Americans buy every day at their supermarkets. The study included 148 pork chops and 50 ground pork samples from around the United States.

In the samples tested, 69 percent tested positive for yersinia and 11 percent for enterococcus, which can indicate fecal contamination that can lead to urinary-tract infections. Salmonella and listeria, the more well-known bacterium, registered at four percent and three percent, respectively. Urvashi Rangan, one of the authors of the report, said the use of antibiotics in animals has created a “public health crisis” and is a reason for the findings.

“The results were concerning,” he told ABC News.  “It’s hard to say that there was no problem.  It shows that there needs to be better hygiene at animal plants. Yersinia wasn’t even being monitored for.”

In a written statement, the Pork Producer’s Council questioned the methods used by Consumer Reports, saying the number of samples tested, 198, did "not provide a nationally informative estimate of the true prevalence of the cited bacteria on meat.”

Despite the findings, Rangan said it’s good to know that the bacteria can be killed by cooking the pork properly and by being vigilant about cross-contamination. Pork cuts should be cooked to 145 degrees, while ground pork needs to reach a temperature of 160 degrees to kill the bacteria.

“Anything that touches raw meat should go into the dishwasher before touching anything else,” Rangan said. "Juices from raw meat that touch the counter should be washed with hot soapy water.”

Consumers wanting to purchase pork that was raised without antibiotics should look for labels that read: “No antibiotics used,” “Animal Welfare Approved” or “Certified Humane.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the findings “affirm that companies are meeting the established guidelines for protecting the public’s health."

“USDA will remain vigilant against emerging and evolving threats to the safety of America’s supply of meat, poultry and processed egg products, and we will continue to work with the industry to ensure companies are following food safety procedures in addition to looking for new ways to strengthen the protection of public health,” the department said in a statement.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Investigation Finds High Rate of Food Poisoning Bacteria in Pork

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Pork eaters beware: a new investigation has found high rates of a potentially harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning, especially in kids.

Consumer Reports tested 198 samples of meat from pork chops and ground pork and found yersinia enterocolitica in 69 percent of them.  The samples came from six U.S. cities and included many major store brands, according to the magazine.

What makes this bacteria dangerous is that it's resistant to antibiotics used to treat infections.  Consumer Reports says this can be a result of farmers feeding antibiotics to healthy pigs.

“Antibiotics are routinely fed to healthy animals at low levels.  This practice promotes the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria which are a major public health concern,” said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Director of Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports.  “Infections caused by resistant bacteria are more difficult to treat and can lead to increased suffering and costs.”

Each year, yersinia enterocolitica causes foodborne illness in about 100,000 Americans, the magazine reports.  It advises consumers to cook pork thoroughly and wash their hands after handling raw meat.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


The 10 Germiest Places in a Restaurant

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While you're feasting, where are the germs festering?

To get the dirt on dining out, ABC News Consumer Correspondent Elisabeth Leamy went undercover at 10 restaurants in three states.  She took swab samples from 10 surfaces you typically come in contact with at a restaurant.  Then, Dr. Philip Tierno and his team at the New York University Microbiology Department lab tested the samples.

So what's the dirtiest?  Here are the top 10 germiest places in a restaurant, in descending order:

10. Salad bar tongs
9. Ketchup bottles
8. Bathroom faucets
7. Bathroom door knobs
6. Rims of glasses
5. Tables
4. Salt and pepper shakers
3. Lemon wedges
2. Menus
1. Seats

Watch the full story on 20/20: The Real Dish Friday at 10 p.m. ET

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sewage, Bacteria, Gasoline Found in NYC Floodwater

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Water is everywhere in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy – in basements, on the streets and in transit systems – but the one place it could be most dangerous is in your body.

ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser collected floodwater and drinking water in some of the areas hit hardest by Sandy and had them tested at The Ambient Group lab. The floodwater collected in Lower Manhattan tested positive for gasoline and two types of bacteria found in sewage: E. coli and coliform.

“Very dangerous,” Besser said. “Make sure you wear protective gear if you are coming into contact with flood water.”

Looking at the testing containers filled with Manhattan floodwater, Besser said that the yellow in one container meant bacteria was present and the purple in another meant “sky-high levels of sewage contamination.”

Wednesday, he went to Piermont, N.Y., an area hit so hard by the hurricane that it’s under a boil water advisory, meaning residents are instructed not to drink tap water without purifying it with several drops of bleach.

When a power outage knocked out one of Piermont’s water pumps, officials were concerned about tap water contamination. The water company tested water from a hydrant, which initially ran brown, but eventually cleared.

Besser tested the hydrant water as well and saw that it had chlorine in it, which protects it from germs.

He also collected tap water from a family’s home faucet, but the lab results won’t be ready until Thursday. The family is already boiling its water as a precaution.

Water companies are responsible for alerting residents if their water is unsafe to drink. Alerts can also come from town or city officials.

Click here for a list of areas under boil water advisory.

In New York City, for instance, the Department of Environmental Protection announced that its water was safe to drink. Water in reservoirs 125 miles north of the city continue to be monitored closely with extra testing in the wake of the storm.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Surgeons Report Progress Against Dangerous Hospital Infection

Pixland/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Surgeons have found a new treatment that may help put a stubborn hospital-acquired infection on the run.

Hospitalized patients are at risk for developing healthcare-related infections, and one of the most dreaded is Clostridium difficile colitis, a virulent bacteria that affects about 336,000 patients per year, causing diarrhea, fevers, and occasionally sepsis and death.  It is easily passed around the hospital, especially since it is one of very few bacteria that cannot be killed by the alcohol-based sanitizers that are fixtures in every hospital for hand hygiene.

There has never been any medical treatment available to prevent this infection.  But in findings presented Thursday at the 2012 Annual American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress in Chicago, surgeons report success using a medicine called intestinal alkaline phosphate (IAP) to prevent C. difficile infections in tests on mice.

“According to the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], C. difficile is linked to about 14,000 U.S. deaths every year,” says Dr. Richard Hodin, a surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital and the principal investigator of the study.  “Estimates are that we spend at least $1 billion in extra costs to the health care system due to C. difficile, and probably a lot more.”

The bacteria may live naturally in the colon and is kept in check by the rest of the natural, “good bacteria” in the gut.  But occasionally, when patients are given antibiotics, may of the “good bacteria” get killed off and the C. difficile takes over, causing symptoms like diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain and colitis.  While antibiotics typically can treat the bacteria, an unrecognized infection may progress to a dangerous disease called toxic megacolon that requires emergency surgery and a removal of the entire colon.

“The paradox is that it is caused by antibiotics, but antibiotics don’t always work to cure it,” says Dr. Angela Moss, a surgery resident at Massachusetts General Hospital and one of the co-authors on the study.  “Then it becomes a life-threatening problem.”

Unfortunately, because C. diff may be lying dormant in any person’s colon, almost every patient on antibiotics can be at risk for C. difficile colitis.  Researchers therefore have been searching for a way to prevent this infection before it starts.

In the study, Hodin and colleagues found that giving IAP to mice on antibiotics resulted in a 10-fold decrease in C. difficile bacteria in their stool, as well as a 10-fold decrease in an inflammatory marker called IL-1.

“We were surprised to find that this naturally occurring enzyme was a regulator of the gut flora,” says Hodin.  “If this works in humans, like it does in mice, then we think it could be used as an oral supplement in almost all patients who are taking antibiotics.”

Fortunately, IAP is a naturally occurring gut enzyme, so it is likely completely safe to take.  A previous study using IAP in patients showed no side effects.  Researchers are hopeful that clinical trials in humans can soon begin, allowing progress to be made on preventing this dangerous infection.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


That Rose in Your Cheeks Could Be Bacteria

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Rosacea can be annoying, embarrassing and even painful -- and now new research shows it could be the result of a type of bacteria that rides into your face in the belly of a mite.

A skin problem that causes reddening and inflammation on the cheeks, nose and chin, rosacea affects approximately three percent of Americans. Fair-skinned females between the ages of 30 and 50 are most at risk. Those with impaired immune systems are also disproportionately affected.

Doctors have known for years that rosacea was caused by tiny mites called Demodex folliculorum that usually live in people’s facial hair follicles. However, they did not understand why these mites would cause the symptoms of rosacea, nor did they know why treating with antibiotics improves the appearance.

Despite this, doctors have tended to use both oral and topical antibiotics to treat rosacea -- despite a causative bacteria never having been identified. That is until recently; when researchers at the National University of Ireland conducted a review that concluded that a bacterium isolated inside the mites called Bacillus oleroni was responsible.

“The bacteria live in the digestive tracts of Demodex mites found on the face, in a mutually beneficial relationship,” Dr. Kevin Kavanagh, who conducted the review, explained in a Wednesday news release. “When the mites die, the bacteria are released and leak into surrounding skin tissues, triggering tissue degradation and inflammation.”

The researchers found that people who suffered from rosacea had higher rates of these mites than people who did not have rosacea, and thus were exposed to more bacteria. Also, the bacteria produce chemicals that have been shown to cause inflammation in people who suffer from rosacea -- and in some cases, exposure to these chemicals actually triggered the condition.

“Once the numbers of mites increase, so does the number of bacteria, making rosacea more likely to occur,” Kavanagh writes. “Targeting these bacteria may be a useful way of treating and preventing this condition.”

The inflammation and redness that comes along with rosacea poses significant problems for patients, both in terms of appearance and pain. Antibiotics commonly used for the condition often kill these bacteria, but there are still a number of cases of rosacea that remain hard to treat.

The findings of this new study could open the doors to new insights -- and even novel treatments -- for this sometimes-difficult condition.

“It is interesting that they have identified this bacteria and it holds the potential to develop more targeted therapy of the treatment of rosacea,” says Dr. Mathew M. Avram, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Dermatology Laser & Cosmetic Center, who was not involved with the study.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Is the Five-Second Rule Fact or Myth?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Myth-Busters are back at it Friday night, shattering one more widely held belief. Did you ever hear about the so-called "five-second rule?"

It turns out the rule that says that food that is dropped on the floor is safe to eat if picked up within five seconds is a myth. Dr. Jorge Parada, medical director of the Loyola University Health System in Illinois, says that food dropped on the floor is contaminated immediately and cannot be sanitized.

Dr. Parada adds, though, that the amount and type of bacteria picked up depends on the object that is dropped and on what type of surface it falls. Some objects attract microbes more easily than others, he says, according to Health24. For example, Parada notes, a potato chip that falls on a table top that is fairly clean for a short second is less likely to spread bacteria than one that falls on the floor and is left there for a while.  Loyola adds that hard candy, too, is less likely to become contaminated than a slice of cheese.

Still, it is better to err on the side of caution and refrain from eating food under the five-second rule. Instead, Parada suggests a new rule: When in doubt, throw it out.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio