Drug-Resistant Bug Found In Cleveland Patient

CLEVELAND (AP) - A drug-resistant germ was discovered last year in a Cleveland Clinic patient in a case that was only the eighth of its kind in the nation.

One of the eight victims of the germ known as vancomycin intermediate Staphylococcus aureus -- or VISA -- died. The others recovered.

Most of the victims were hospitalized patients with chronic illnesses and weakened immune systems.

The VISA germ is resistant to the antibiotic methicillin before rebuffing the antibiotic vancomycin, considered the most reliable and effective drug for treating the infection.

The Cleveland Clinic case was first disclosed publicly on the Ohio Department of Health's Web site, as was another suspected, but unconfirmed, VISA case in Adams County in southern Ohio.

The state declined to give the Cleveland Clinic patient's name, age, or sex or whether the person survived.

The Plain Dealer said that according to a report made available through the Freedom of Information Act, the patient, from Portage County, which includes Kent and Ravenna, contracted VISA from an open wound while undergoing treatment at the clinic.

The case was reported by the research hospital on March 5, 2001, and confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control four days later.

A laboratory analysis showed the organism was partially or fully resistant to eight antibiotics, including vancomycin, but was susceptible to three other antibiotics.

Dr. Steven Gordon, a hospital epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, said there was no evidence that VISA had spread to family members, health care workers or other patients.

Cleveland Clinic microbiologist Jerri Hall identified the case.

"We all looked at it, had rounds about it and shipped it off to the CDC," she said.

About 2 million hospitalized patients catch infections every year, with about half of those resistant to at least one antibiotic, according to the CDC.

Two of the most common drug-resistant organisms are vancomycin-resistant enterococcus and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. They prey on people with weak immune systems, particularly the elderly, and can lead to high fever, dehydration, pneumonia and infections of the blood, surgical wounds and urinary tract.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)