Deadly bug that killed two children also killed two adults last year: report

Dead pair had rare combination of bacteria that killed two children last month and influenza B

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 December, 2013, 4:28am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 December, 2013, 4:28am

A deadly pneumococcal bug that killed two children last month also proved fatal for two previously healthy adults and caused a third to fall seriously ill in the city last year, a local medical journal has reported.

The three patients had been afflicted by a rare bacterial combination - Streptococcus pneumoniae serotype 3 coupled with influenza B - resulting in their severe conditions, doctors from Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei said in the report.

Two of the patients, aged 41 and 60, both died of respiratory failure and organ failure just days after being admitted to hospital.

The third, a 37-year-old, survived a 40-day hospital stay despite suffering septic shock and acute kidney damage, the doctors wrote.

"It is very rare for a pneumococcal bug to kill healthy adults as they are normally not a high-risk group," University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung said yesterday.

But it can lead to deadly invasive infections such as pneumonia, meningitis and septicaemia. Streptococcus pneumoniae serotype 3 took the lives of a three-year-old boy on November 17 and a five-year-old girl a day later.

Ho noted that serotype 3 had developed a resistance to many antibiotics and could kill a patient rapidly.

He called for Streptococcus pneumoniae infection to be classified as a notifiable disease, meaning doctors would be required by law to report all such cases to the Health Department.

The Queen Elizabeth report, published by the Hong Kong Medical Journal today, said the hospital recorded four cases of a similar bacterial combination from 2011 to last year.

All four young adults experienced serious pneumonia, multi-organ failure and respiratory failure. At least two suffered from septic shock, caused by dangerously low blood pressure.

Three of them had contracted serotype 3, while the fourth was detected with a different pneumococcal bug. Two died despite aggressive antibiotic treatment.

Ho urged children, the elderly and patients with chronic diseases to be vaccinated against the deadly pneumococcal strain and influenza viruses.

A Centre for Health Protection spokesman said it had no figures on the number of cases of the bacterial combination in the city.