Rare superbug nearly kills Haifa student

“It was a battle for his life,” doctor says. “I don’t recall such a case in Israel. Thanks to the professionalism here and some luck, Tzahi is alive.”

January 19, 2011 03:43
2 minute read.
Tzahi Reuimi with his father and doctors

Tzahi Reuimi superbug hospital 311. (photo credit: Carmel Medical Center)

A 24-year-old student teetered between life and death for more than a month due to a tiny pimple on his wrist caused by a rare methicillin- resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection until he was saved recently at Carmel Medical Center in Haifa.

“We went to our health fund clinic, where the sore was drained of pus and received antibiotics,” recalled Rosa Reuimi, the mother of Tzahi, who was conceived after 17 years of in-vitro fertilization to his infertile parents.

1st instance of 'superbug' detected in Israel

A dean’s-list first-year student studying business administration at the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology, Tzahi found that the pills didn’t help, and he began to suffer from severe pain all over his body, as well as a fever of 41º Celsius.

“We felt that something was not normal,” said his mother. “The pains were horrible and nothing helped, so we went to Carmel’s emergency room.”

There, Dr. Gabi Weber conducted a number of tests and found that Tzahi had been attacked by the virulent and rare MRSA bacterium. The pathogen, first identified in 1961, is known for causing skin infections in addition to many other types of infections.

US statistics show that as many as 19,000 Americans die annually from MRSA infections, some spread in medical centers themselves, but prevention practices in hospitals and proper home care can reduce the toll.

“We know that it exists from the medical literature and has attacked in the US, but seeing such a case here in a young healthy man was almost unknown in Israel,” Weber said.

Orthopedists who examined him suspected that the infection had reached his spinal cord, but a CT scan showed it was clean. Nevertheless, his condition continued to decline, spreading to his lungs and the rest of his body, and he lost consciousness. In the intensive care unit, Carmel doctors fought for his life.

Dr. Silvyan Borstein, chief of intensive care, said she tried all kinds of antibiotics, but nothing worked. Doctors had to give him anesthesia to put him into an artificial coma and attach him to a respirator that worked at a pace of 120 breaths per minute under high pressure.

“I waited for him for 17 years before I became pregnant, and I wasn’t willing to give him up,” his mother said.

After consulting with additional experts abroad, Weber managed to mix a “cocktail” of antibiotics that started to work. After the source of the infection was found to be in his hip joint, he was rushed to surgery to remove the pus and sterilize the area.

“It was a battle for his life,” said Weber. “I don’t recall such a case in Israel. Thanks to the professionalism here and some luck, Tzahi is alive.”

His body is reacting well to the antibiotic cocktail, and he is recovering in the hospital.

Tzahi will be discharged in a few days, his doctors said Tuesday.

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