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Bacteria epidemic at Madrid hospital claimed 18 lives: report

by Staff Writers
Madrid (AFP) May 11, 2008
At least 18 people died in a bacteria epidemic that infected more than 250 patients over a period of 20 months at one of Madrid's main hospitals, a report said Sunday.

The deaths at the 12th October University Hospital were caused by Acinetobacter baumannii, a highly virulent hospital-acquired infection that has strains that are resistant to most drugs, El Pais daily reported.

The situation was so bad at the hospital that the intensive care unit had to be destroyed so that a new, non-contaminated structure could be built, the report said.

The hospital's director, Joaquin Martinez, denied at a press conference alongside his preventative medicine chief Jose Ramon de Juanes that 18 deaths were directly caused by the bacterial infection.

Patients in a critical state "die from their illness, accompanied exceptionally by an infection of multi-drug resistant Acinetobacter baumannii and other types of micro-organisms, because they are more vulnerable due to their health problems," said Juanes.

According to El Pais, the bacterium infected a total of 252 patients in the 20 months between February 2006 and its eradication 20 months later.

More than 100 of those patients died, although only 18 of them directly from this infection, the report said.

The bacterium "contributed to the death" of other patients but "had not been the determining factor," Juan Carlos Montejo, a doctor at the hospital, was quoted as saying by El Pais.

A similar so-called nosocomial infection -- Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) -- has long been the cause of a global scare surrounding bacteria that are impervious to all but a handful of antibiotics.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warned last year that "healthcare-associated infections" such as MRSA and Acinetobacter baumannii, are "possibly the biggest infectious disease challenge facing the EU."

Acinetobacter baumannii tends to infect those in intensive care with fragile immune systems and can lead quickly to pneumonia. It is easily transmitted from hospital equipment or from patient to patient.

It led to the death of around 20 people in a several hospitals in northern France in 2003.

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China virus death toll hits 30 as number of infections soars
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