Durban - A drug-resistant strain of a bacterial infection has been identified as the possible infection contracted by two eManzimtoti children who had to be airlifted from a Mozambican hospital last week.
Despite the best efforts of doctors at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital, Lianja van Rhyn, 8, died on Sunday. She and her brother, Tian Fourie, 12, were airlifted from a Mozambican hospital on Thursday and placed in high care. Tian was said to be making progress.
The Daily News has learnt that doctors at Luthuli hospital had been trying to treat the children for what they believed to be Vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VRSA).
Mother Cornelia Fourie-Liut, said her children had never been ill and had not recently visited any hospital before they fell ill.
“Their father is also sick but I cannot say whether it is the same thing”. She said Tian continued to show signs of improvement in hospital but was still in ICU.
“The doctors believe that he is not strong enough to handle the news of his sister passing so he has not been told. It has been really difficult for us as a family but we are holding up”.
That the children had contracted VRSA could not be confirmed by the Department of Health, which said it was still conducting tests to ascertain the nature of the infection.
Dr Sibongile Zungu, head of the KZN health department, was more cautious, saying her department would wait for the autopsy and other test results before pronouncing on cause of death or the type of bacterial infection.
“It is obvious that there is an infection but we cannot say conclusively what it is.
“What we know is that it is a fast-growing virulent infection, meaning it has been spreading fast in the children’s bodies.”
On the type of treatment she could only say “aggressive attempts” had been made by specialist doctors at the hospital, but these were obviously not successful in the case of the young Lianja.
Commenting generally on the infection, Professor Indres Moodley, director of the Health Outcomes Unit at UKZN, said S. aureus was quite a common infection.
But when it mutated it could become resistant to antibiotics, including vancomycin.
Vancomycin is used to treat MRSA - the Methicillin-resistant strain. The antibiotic drug Linezolid can be used to treat VRSA.
He said the infection was easily contracted by people with compromised immune systems and the infection is normally contracted in hospital.
“It is very rare to contract it in communities,” he said, adding there was absolutely no need to panic.
A microbiologist, who did not want to be named, said about 30 percent of people carried the bacteria in their bodies in areas where it was moist, such as in the armpit.
She said it had become associated with high levels of resistance.
It could cause skin infections such as cellulitis, and lead to even more devastating illnesses such as toxic shock syndrome.
However, she said the swelling of the throats on the two children might have been caused by something else.
She said in the US, community-acquired MRSA was a big problem with the infection having “jumped out of hospitals”.