Man saved at Afula hospital from severe pond fish bacteria infection

The infection could have killed the man or even taken his foot.

Shlomo Lankri in hospital 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Emek Medical Center)
Shlomo Lankri in hospital 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Emek Medical Center)
A 64-year-old Upper Nazareth man almost lost his foot when he was “stabbed” by the bacteria-infected fins of a live tilapia (amnoon or musht) fix he had put in a bag after purchasing it to take home for dinner.
Emek Medical Center in Afula reported on Sunday that doctors had saved man’s foot, whose infection resulted from Vibro vulnificus bacteria that thrive on pond fish. Shlomo Lankri was discharged and sent home over the weekend after two months in the hospital that included two operations.
He had arrived at the hospital with a high fever and significant swelling and blood-filled blisters on his left foot. Tests showed he had a severe infection. His family told the doctors that a few hours before, Lankri had bought talapia fish in a store where he used to buy fish once a week. When the live pond fish was put into a bag, he turned on him and scratched Lankri on the foot with his fins. He did not take the injury seriously, but when he felt unwell, he was rushed by ambulance to the hospital.
Vibrio bacteria are very dangerous, and the Health Ministry from time to time -- especially before the High Holidays when fish consumption is very high -- not to take home live pond fish or killed fish without their scales and fins being removed completely by the fishmonger. Lankri was taken to the operating theater to remove dead tissue so the bacteria do not continue to spread through his body. Only frozen, cleaned fish are recommended.
A week ago, Emek orthopedists and plastic surgeons transplanted healthy skin onto his foot, and it “took.” Now that he has been sent home, he will still have to undergo a long recovery period there.
Dr. Biviana Hazan, head of the infectious disease unit at the Afula hospital, said that the bacteria thrives in fish pond water and are very virulent. People who touch uncleaned fish themselves and have open sores on their hands or feet can be infected; even the water itself, without the fish, can cause an infection, she added. In recent years, there were a number of people who had to undergo amputation of limbs as a result of Vibrio infection. Without immediate care, the injury can even be fatal.
Vibrio bacteria were first described by Dr. Naiel Basharat and Prof. Raul Raz from Emek in 1996. The microbes had not been known in Israel or anywhere else in the world until then.