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Health Team

Fayetteville girl recovers from MRSA infection

Posted February 9, 2009 5:19 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— It was a mystery illness that led a Fayetteville family to Duke University Hospital.

It began when 15-month-old Bianca woke up crying. Her mother, Agniescka Alexander, didn't know what was wrong until she put her down to walk.

“She started to limp, so I knew, OK, something is wrong with your foot,” Alexander said.

The girl's foot was slightly swollen. Two visits to the emergency room didn't stop her leg from swelling, too, or halt a rising fever.

Then a blood culture found Bianca had methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a bacterial infection resistant to many common antibiotics. It starts as a skin infection, but can get worse with delayed treatment.

Doctors referred Alexander to Duke for strong antibiotics and surgery to drain the infection.

“Once they drained it (her leg), the fever dropped so ... since then, she has not (had any) fevers,” Alexander said.

“For the patients, we're able to put them on the right antibiotics, and the surgeons are able to drain (the infections). Most of them do very, very well,” said Dr. Ravi Jhaveri, with Duke Pediatrics' Division of Infectious Diseases.

However, Jhaveri said Bianca's infection was more difficult to treat. She had bone damage and required a few additional surgeries.

Duke has a plan in place to work with referral doctors to help them recognize and test for MRSA earlier.

The goal is to “have them recognize that MRSA is now the prevailing pathogen in these skin and soft tissue infections,” Jhaveri said.

Jhaveri said he is hopeful Bianca's infection won't affect the bone's ability to grow normally.

“She's getting better,” Alexander said.

Bianca is expected to be OK and was released Thursday from the hospital after spending three weeks there. She will remain on strong antibiotics for about a month, Jhaveri said.