Cologne The bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa was discovered in the body of a dead pensioner. Further patients of a Cologne practice could also carry the same bacterium. According to doctors, it could be one of the most serious incidents with the pathogen.
Hygiene and infection experts consider the assumed spread of a dangerous bacterium in a radiology practice in Cologne to be dramatic. Should it be confirmed that at least 28 patients in the practice have been infected with Pseudomonas aeruginosa, it would "to my knowledge be one of the most serious incidents with this pathogen in an outpatient facility in Germany, if not even in Europe," said infectiologist Peter Walger. He is spokesperson for the board of the German Society for Hospital Hygiene.
The Cologne public prosecutor's office is currently investigating whether the death of an 84-year-old and the illnesses of other patients in the practice are due to an infection with the bacterium.
Infections with the germ in practices or clinics are common in Europe, said microbiologist Alexander Friedrich of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. "In most cases a single patient is affected, in most published cases less than ten patients," he said. Only rarely are there more.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa can cause pneumonia as well as urinary tract and wound infections. For infection, the pathogen usually requires an entry site into the human body – such as a wound or a catheter. The "Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger" reports that the patients affected in the current case are said to have received injections in their backs.
There is much to be said for the fact that "a hygiene problem has occurred in the practice concerned within the framework of the medical measures applied", said the President of the German Society for Infectiology, Gerd Fätkenheuer.
It does not matter that the pathogen occurred in an outpatient facility and not in a clinic, "because the same hygienic requirements apply to medical interventions both here and there," added Fätkenheuer, who works at the University Hospital of Cologne.
Senior public prosecutor Ulrich Bremer said that the pensioner had been treated in the practice at the beginning of the year because of back problems. After he received an injection, complications occurred repeatedly. After an operation, he died mid-April of multi-organ failure. According to the public prosecutor's office, the germ was found during the autopsy.
The health department was immediately involved after the case became known, said Gerhard Wiesmüller, head of the department of infection and environmental hygiene of the office. It quickly became apparent that several patients in the practice also carried the pathogen. On Tuesday, the medical director of the radiology practice concerned referred to the ongoing investigations and would not comment on the case.
(Original text: dpa; Translation: Mareike Graepel)