Entries in Bacteria (37)


Sepsis: How Doctors Miss Signs of Dangerous Infection

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A child gets a minor scrape while playing sports at school.  The child and parents ignore it, but the next day he is vomiting and has pain in his leg.  The parents take their child to the emergency room.

Remarkably, decisions made by doctors at this point could mean the difference between life and death.  And right now, the case of Rory Staunton, a 12-year-old boy who died after showing symptoms exactly as described above, has hospitals all over the country focusing on ways to make sure these cases don't end tragically.

In an episode first reported by The New York Times last week, Staunton died at NYU Langone Medical Center of a deadly condition known as sepsis.  Such cases are rare, but not unheard of.

Sepsis, which affects at least 750,000 adults a year, can and does affect children.  In 2007, a 13-year-old in Chicago named Tony Love almost died after experiencing nearly the same symptoms.  Love's story is told at the beginning of Maryn McKenna's 2010 book Superbug about the dangers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

For doctors, the problem is recognizing what's wrong before it's too late.

Sepsis is the result of a body's overwhelming response to an infection.  When bacteria get into the bloodstream, the body's immune system mobilizes to fight them.  But if the infection is left unchecked, the body's own defenses can rage out of control.

"The body says, 'Hey, we have some attackers here, let's go fight them,'" says Dr. Nathan Shapiro, an emergency medicine physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.  "It makes chemicals called cytokines and other factors as part of the inflammatory response."

But as Shapiro explains it, if the underlying infection is not treated, the response itself can cause organ damage and death.

The problem is that, in its early stages, sepsis causes symptoms that aren't much different from those of a viral infection that will go away on its own.  Consequently, sorting out who can go home from the emergency department and who needs quick hospitalization can be tough.

"The thing that people are always looking for is the crystal ball that will tell whether this kid who doesn't look all that sick really is," says Dr. David Gaieski, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.  "Right now there's nothing that is 100 percent able to do that."

Shapiro agrees: "The tricky part is discriminating between someone who has an infection and is going to recover by themselves, and someone who is going to become really sick."

The stakes involved in this decision could not be higher, since treating septic patients early is the single most important element in their care.

"When the person shows up, the clock starts ticking," says Gaieski.  "Those first six hours mean a lot."

Complicating matters further is the fact that guidelines developed to tip off physicians when they should suspect sepsis and start early treatment are most often geared toward adults.  In children, these same rules may not apply.

"It's hard to apply sepsis criteria mentioned in there to pediatric patients," says Dr. Abhi Mehrotra of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  "Vital sign criteria are age-appropriate.  It's difficult to take criteria out of the clinical population in which they were developed and apply them to another."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Aimee Copeland Leaves Hospital After Battling Flesh-Eating Disease

Tom Adkins/Capital City EMS(ATLANTA) -- Aimee Copeland, the 24-year-old Georgia grad student who lost her left leg, right foot and hands to flesh-eating disease, has left the Augusta hospital that saved her life.

It's been two months since Copeland cut open her calf in a fall from a homemade zip line near the Little Tallapoosa River, inviting the deadly infection that landed her in critical condition.

Copeland is en route to a private rehabilitation facility, where she will learn to use a wheelchair and, eventually, prosthetic limbs. Her family, who lives in Snellville, Ga., has decided to keep the location of the facility private.

The next phase will involve months of intense rehab, according to Dr. Alberto Esquenazi, chief medical officer of MossRehab in Philadelphia.

"The first step is to provide patients with self independence," said Esquenazi, who is also the chairman of physical medicine and rehabilitation at MossRehab Regional Amputee Center. "Right now, someone has to feed her, help her with hygiene, turn on lights, open doors. ... But some simple devices can help her do these things herself."

Copeland will learn to use a wheelchair until her body is strong enough to tolerate prosthetics.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Is the Makeup Counter Making You Sick?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Many women are drawn to the makeup counter by the allure, glamour and intrigue of achieving a new look.  But what else could you be putting on your face when you sample products from a store’s makeup counter?

If you’re not careful, it could be everything from yeast to mold to dangerous bacteria strains that have accumulated on the samples over time.  Those strains could lead to rashes, infections, break-outs and more on your skin.

An undercover test conducted by ABC's Good Morning America found that one out of every five, or 20 percent, of samples tested from 10 stores across two states showed significant growth of mold, yeast or fecal matter.

“You don’t have to panic,” Dr. Philip Tierno, director of microbiology at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, told GMA.  ”You just have to realize that if you have an open cut, you might not want to go that route of using makeup that has been used by other people before you.”

Linda Wells, editor-in-chief of Allure magazine and an expert in the field of make-up and beauty, agrees.

“To me, makeup testers are like petri dishes,” she told GMA.  “I would not want to go near one or put anything in that tester on my face.”

Wells says there are ways to avoid exposing yourself to germs while still testing out new beauty looks.  Here are her top safety tips to try the next time you’re in the market for new makeup:

1. Research the makeup you want online before you go to the store, so your choices are narrowed and you don’t have to try as many.

2. Be wary of even disposable wands because you never know how many people double-dip the samples.

3. Stay away from open jars of lip gloss, moisturizer and foundations, because people may have dipped their fingers into them -- and hands are hotbeds of germs.

4. When testing eyeshadow and eyeliner, use a disposable applicator and test it on your hand, not your eyes.

5. To test a new foundation, apply it to your neck, away from your face and lips.

6. Ask the salesperson to sterilize lipstick tubes with alcohol before you try them.  GMA's tests showed that kills the bacteria.

7. To try a new lipstick shade, apply it to the pad of your finger, not anywhere near your mouth.

8.  Test concealer on your inner wrist, not your face, where the lighter coloring will usually match your under-eye area.

9. Never test mascara from a used tester bottle.  Ask the clerk to open a fresh tester and give you a disposable wand.  Dip each wand only once, to avoid contaminating the sample for the next customer.  If a new tester isn’t an option, don’t test at all.  Instead, ask the salesperson to describe the mascara to you.

10. Many stores now have a “buy and try” policy, where you can purchase cosmetics, take them home to try on, and then get a full refund if you’re not happy.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Men’s Offices Germier Than Women’s, Says Study

Ciaran Griffin/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Men’s offices harbor significantly more bacteria than women’s, according to a new study published in the online journal PLoS ONE.

The types of bacteria are the same, and come mostly from the skin, nose, mouth and digestive tract.  Several types are also commonly found in feces.

Researchers from the San Diego State University and the University of Arizona took 450 samples from different office surfaces in New York City, San Francisco and Tucson, Ariz.

Chairs and phones had the highest amount of bacteria, while desktops, keyboards and computer mice had fewer bacteria.

One of the main reasons the researchers did the study was to learn more about what microorganisms inhabit workplaces.

“Westerners spend about 90 percent of time indoors in artificial environments that we build, and workplaces are where we spend a lot of our time,” said co-author Scott Kelley, a professor of biology at San Diego State.

Kelly said he believes men’s work spaces have more bacteria simply because men are generally bigger than women, though there could also be other reasons.

For example, he said, “Skin is a major source of the bacteria, and if men’s hands are physically bigger, there’s more surface area to colonize bacteria.  Men’s mouths are also bigger.”

Philip Tierno, a clinical professor microbiology and pathology at NYU Langone Medical Center, said another reason is that men just aren’t as clean as women.

“Men tend to be less tidy.  They wash their hands less than women and tend to be a little more cavalier about eating from the floor or from other surfaces,” he said.  Tierno was not involved in the study.  “Also, numerous people touch chairs and phones, but not as many people touch keyboards.”

Previous research found that the opposite is true -- women’s offices are more contaminated than men’s, perhaps in part because women use cosmetics and are more likely to store food in their desks.

One reason for the discrepancy between the studies, Tierno said, is the method used to identify the bacteria.  Kelley’s study uses molecular methods, which are more sensitive and specific than the culture-based identification used in other research.

In addition to differences between men and women, Kelley said the study also found that there was no significant difference between the types of bacteria found in offices in San Francisco and New York. In Tucson, though, there were different types of bacteria associated with drier, desert-like climates.

Though there may be a lot of bacteria in office spaces, Kelley said, most of it doesn’t do much harm.

“Most of what’s brought in is harmless, but it’s very easy to spread.  If someone gets sick, they should stay home because they are bringing bacteria in with them and making others sick.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Another Case of Flesh-Eating Disease

ABC News(ATLANTA) -- A Georgia landscaper is battling a flesh-eating disease at the same Augusta hospital as Aimee Copeland, the 24-year-old student who lost her leg to the deadly infection.

Robert Vaughn, 32, contracted necrotizing fasciitis after cutting his thigh while trimming weeds May 4, three days after Aimee Copeland sliced open her calf falling from a homemade zip line near the Little Tallapoosa River.

Vaughn went to a hospital in Cartersville, Ga., where doctors gave him a prescription for antibiotics and recommended he stay for observation, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. But Vaughn, "being the man that I am," went home and watched the painful gash swell from the size of a peanut to that of a grapefruit.

He returned the next day and underwent emergency surgery.

"It was that bad," he told the newspaper, describing how doctors removed some of the infected flesh and sent him to Doctor's Hospital in Augusta for more surgeries. "They told me I was close to death."

It took five surgeries to remove more than two pounds of tissue infected by bacteria that burrowed deep into Vaughn's wound.

"The bacteria produce enzymes that can dissolve muscle deep down," said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., and president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. "And because it's so deep, it can be a sneaky infection that's not immediately appreciated by the patient."

The symptom that should ring alarm bells, according to Schaffner, is "serious, unremitting pain."

"An otherwise healthy individual with a seemingly superficial injury who has severe pain should have a much more thorough evaluation," he said.

Indeed Vaughn said the pain was so bad he "could hardly move," the AJC reported.

Vaughn is expected to undergo skin grafts to replace some of the tissue removed during surgery.

"They have to rebuild my groin area," he told the AJC. "But I'm feeling much better now."

Vaughn was at one point next door to Copeland, who is slowly recovering from the infection that claimed her left leg and threatens to take her right foot and both hands. The two cases occurred 54 miles apart.

Copeland's infection was the work of Aeromonas hydrophila, a bacteria that thrives in warm climates and fresh water like the river where Copeland was zip lining with friends. The bacteria that caused Vaughn's infection is unclear.

Vaughn is the third person to contract flesh-eating disease in Georgia in three weeks. Lana Kuykendall, 36, developed necrotizing fasciitis May 11 after giving birth to twins at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. She is reportedly in critical but stable condition.

Doctors say the cases are rare and unrelated.

To reduce the risk of necrotizing fasciitis, all wounds big and small should be immediately cleaned, treated with antimicrobial ointment and covered with sterile bandages, according to the National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Report Says Fish Pedicures May Carry Dangerous Bacteria

Michael Temchine/For The Washington Post via Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- The tiny toothless carp that nibble away dead, calloused skin from the feet of salon customers undergoing fish pedicures may carry bacteria responsible for a variety of dangerous skin and soft tissue infections, British scientists reported today.

The threat has remained largely theoretical ever since a spa in Alexandria, Va., brought the fishy foot treatments to U.S. shores in 2008 as a replacement for the razors typically used to scrape dead skin from calloused toes and heels. More than 6,000 patrons flocked to the spa in its first five months for a fish pedicure. But U.S. and British health officials continue to warn that anyone with open sores or skin cuts, an underlying medical condition such as diabetes or an immune system compromised by AIDS, cancer or advanced age should steer clear of a fish pedicure.

"The most important thing to stress at this point is that the U.K. Health Protection Authority considers the human health risks to be very low, and we would not want your readers to be unduly alarmed by our findings," David W. Verner-Jeffreys, lead author of the new report, told ABC News Tuesday.

Scientists began to get indications of the kinds of microbes that could be bathing fish spa patrons' feet in April 2011, when British authorities investigated a reported bacterial outbreak among 6,000 Garra rufa fish imported from Indonesia to British salons and pedicure spas. Tests revealed the fish had been infected with Streptococcus agalactiae, group B Streptococcus, bacteria that can cause pneumonia and serious infections of the bones, joints and blood in people of all ages and life-threatening infections in newborns.

The bacteria findings appear Wednesday in Emerging Infectious Diseases, a journal published by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, which has been monitoring health effects associated with fish pedicures.

More than 10 states have banned the practice for a variety of reasons, the CDC said, including the inability to sufficiently clean fish pedicure tubs between patrons; the impossibility of disinfecting or sanitizing live fish; regulations that specify fish in a salon must be kept in an aquarium, and a humanitarian justification that to entice the fish to feed on dead human skin, they must be starved, "which might be considered animal cruelty."

In the United States, "there have been no published reports to date regarding illness from fish pedicures," the CDC said in a June 2011 document. "However, fish-free foot-baths in nail salons have been implicated in several outbreaks of nontuberculous mycobacterial infections, including the species Mycobacterium abscessus and M. fortuitum," which have left customers with boils and scars.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Could a Virus Actually Power Your iPhone?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Viruses might eventually be able to power the very phone, computer or tablet you’re reading this article on. And we’re not talking about those digital viruses or infestations — trojans, worms, and whatnot.

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Berkeley Lab have found a way to generate power using human viruses. Yes, those viruses inside your body. With a harmless specially engineered M13 virus, the group has been able to power a small display. The viruses can convert mechanical force into electricity.

“In near future, we believe that we can develop personal electric generators. Basically, all of our daily activity related to mechanical movement (or vibration): walking, jogging, typing, etc.,” Seung-Wuk Lee, a faculty scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division, told ABC News. “For example, by installing our piezoelectric thin films on your shoes, we can convert our walking energy to electric energy. Therefore, with a phone in our pocket connected to our shoes, we can charge our phone.”

So how does it all work? The scientists tapped a finger on an electrode coated with the viruses and the viruses then converted the force of the tap into an electric charge. And that force is critical to the equation.

This is the first time electricity has been conducted by “harnessing the piezoelectric properties of biological material,” Berkeley Lab’s press release states. What that really means is that it is the first time electricity has been made by a combination of force and viruses.

But the scientists are picturing even broader uses. “In the future, because our M13 virus-based piezoelectric material is biocompatible, we can implant the virus-based piezoelectric power generator in our body and capture our heart perspiration as a electric power source of the biomedical devices or biosensors. Therefore, no more charging of your pacemakers, hearing aids, personal health monitoring sensors,” Lee explained.

However, this is still a ways out. According to Lee, the current power generation from the virus-based generator is not enough to power a phone yet.

“We are currently working on enhancing the power output of the virus-based piezoelectric generators,” Lee said. “Through our approaches, we believe that we can achieve power enhancement 100-1000 times and develop the personal power generator in near future.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Girl's Rare Flesh-Eating Disease Caused by Common Bacteria

WSB/ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The rare flesh-eating disease that claimed a Georgia woman's leg and has her fighting for her life was caused by a common bacterium that thrives in warm climates and fresh water.

Aimee Copeland, a 24-year-old master's student at the University of West Georgia, has necrotizing fasciitis caused by Aeromonas hydrophila, a bacteria usually linked to intestinal disease.

"This bacteria is a common cause of diarrheal illness," said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., and president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. "For it to cause a deep wound infection that dissolves tissue, that's not common."

Copeland was riding a homemade zip line near the Little Tallapoosa River on May 1 when the line snapped, slashing open her left calf. Doctors at Tanner Medical Center in Carrollton, Ga., cleaned the gash and closed it with 22 staples, but Copeland returned to the hospital the next day complaining of severe pain.

"The symptom that should ring alarm bells is serious, unremitting pain," said Schaffner, describing how the bacteria can, under rare circumstances, burrow deep into a wound and dissolve muscle and other tissue.

Doctors sent Copeland home with a prescription for painkillers, according to her Father, Andy, but the pain persisted. Copeland returned to the hospital the following day and was released again, this time with antibiotics. On Friday -- three full days after the zip line accident -- Copeland was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis and her left leg was amputated at the hip.

The two main treatments for necrotizing fasciitis disease are antibiotics and surgery to remove the infected tissue, Schaffner said, stressing that bacteria left behind can cause a deadly blood infection.

"You have to look at the wound and think, 'This is as far as the infection has gone; now I have to cut even further,'" he said.

After her leg was amputated, Copeland was flown to Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Ga., where doctors removed parts of her abdomen. She is in critical condition.

Copeland's prognosis is unknown, but mortality rates for Aeromonas-related necrotizing fasciitis are upward of 60 percent, according to a 2010 report published in the journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews.

Nearly 70 percent of Aeromonas wound infections stem from recreational occupational injuries in sporting activities, such as swimming or fishing, according to the 2010 report.

To reduce the risk of necrotizing fasciitis, all wounds big and small should be immediately cleaned, treated with antimicrobial ointment and covered with sterile bandages, according to the National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


FDA Warns of Infection Risks from Contaminated Ultrasound Gel

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Food and Drug Administration is warning doctors, hospitals and clinics that contaminated ultrasound gel produced by a New Jersey company infected 16 cardiac patients and could pose serious risks to pregnant women and others who undergo ultrasound imaging and treatment.

The gel is used by radiologists, urologists, gastroenterologists, OB-GYNs, internists, nurses and ultrasound technicians for diagnostic ultrasound testing. Chiropractors and physical therapists use the gel for therapeutic ultrasound treatment of pain, inflammation and injuries.

The agency told the health professionals to stop using the gel because of contamination with two strains of bacteria. “Although Other-Sonic Generic Ultrasound Transmission Gel is not labeled as either sterile or non-sterile, it is NOT sterile,” the FDA cautioned.

The 16 heart patients became infected with the bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, while undergoing transesophageal ultrasound exams with Other-Sonic Generic Ultrasound Transmission Gel during heart valve replacement surgery at a single hospital, the FDA said. The product is made by Pharmaceutical Innovations Inc., of Newark, N.J., which bills itself on its website as a “world leader in medical ultrasound.”

In February, an FDA analysis of product samples revealed "significant amounts of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Klebsiella oxytoca,” which the FDA said suggested that the contamination occurred “during the manufacturing process.”  Both types of bacteria can colonize the skin without causing any symptoms, although Pseudomonas also may cause skin eruptions, even on unbroken skin, the FDA warned. More concerning, however, is the potential of the bacteria to enter the body through ultrasound exams of the airway, lower digestive tract or a woman’s genital tract, where they could cause infection.

If you’re concerned about possible exposure to a contaminated gel, “the best thing to do is go home and take a good shower with soap and water,” or make sure the people performing your ultrasound “pat the area with alcohol afterwards,” said Dr. Robert A. Winters, an infectious disease specialist and chairman of the infection control division at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica.

“Not every patient exposed to Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Klebsiella bacteria in Other-Sonic Generic Ultrasound Transmission Gel will develop colonization (the presence of bacteria at a site without any signs of infection) or infection, but the risk remains present,” the FDA alert said. It warned that biopsies can let bacteria get into tissues, causing an abscess or severe bloodstream infection called sepsis. If Klebsiella bacteria, which are common in the digestive tract, enter the lungs or spread to other tissues, they could lead to pneumonia, wound infection or bloodstream infections, the FDA said.

At the agency’s request, New Jersey health authorities embargoed all lots of the gel manufactured from June through December 2011. The U.S. Marshal Service has since seized those lots. Health professionals were urged to stop using 250 milliliter bottles and 5-liter dispensing containers with three lot numbers: 060111, 090111 and 120111. They were also asked to identify any patients who underwent ultrasound exams with gel from those lots.

“This ultrasound gel presented serious health risks to patients, particularly vulnerable ones,” Dara A. Corrigan, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, said in a statement issued by the FDA. “Therefore, FDA, with the assistance of our state partner, is taking aggressive enforcement action to protect the public health.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Bacteria Helps Beef Up Immunity, Study Says

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- When it comes to bacteria, many people have a pretty simple view: Germs are bad, and our lives should be as free of them as possible.

But an alternate idea suggests just the opposite: Germs are a necessary part of a healthy immune system, helping our body's defenses beef up and fight future illnesses.  When a person's exposure to germs is decreased, problems may arise.

The idea is called the hygiene hypothesis.  For years, scientists have suspected that it played a role in how diseases affect people in the modern hand-sanitized world, but they never had any specific evidence.

But a new study from researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston has changed that.

Researchers studied two kinds of mice: One group had been exposed to a normal bacteria environment, and another group that was germ-free.  When scientists compared the immune systems of the two groups of mice, they found what they cited as evidence to support the hygiene hypothesis -- the mice that had been exposed to microbes had stronger immune systems than the germ-free mice.

Additionally, the germ-free mice had exaggerated inflammation in their lungs and colon, similar to what is seen in humans who have asthma and ulcerative colitis.  The researchers found that a particular kind of immune cell, called an invariant natural killer T cell, was particularly hyperactive in these mice.

But all was not lost for the germ-free mice.  When the researchers introduced them to microbes in the first few weeks of their lives, their fragile immune systems beefed up to a normal level.  But older germ-free mice didn't get this beneficial effect.

The results were published Friday in the journal Science.

The researchers only investigated mice, not people, but experts said the biologic mechanism they studied was similar in both rodents and humans.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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