An Australian woman has achieved a remarkable feat by becoming the world’s first documented survivor of a pathogen known to cause the deadly “blackleg” disease in sheep and cattle. This groundbreaking case was recently published in the Medical Journal of Australia by the doctors who successfully treated her.
The 48-year-old woman was admitted to Sydney’s Prince of Wales Hospital last year with multi-organ failure, including kidney and liver issues, and dangerously low blood pressure. She exhibited symptoms such as fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and shock.
Dr. Ria Ko, the lead author of the published article and an infectious diseases advanced trainee, conducted blood culture tests that identified a bacterium called Clostridium chauvoei as the source of the infection. This bacterium, previously unreported in humans, is well-known in the veterinary world as a leading cause of blackleg disease in cattle.
The likely point of entry for the pathogen was traced back to contaminated soil, which entered her bloodstream through minor scratches. In animals, this bacterium causes myonecrosis, leading to muscle death in the legs. The woman experienced a severe condition where the pathogen’s toxins triggered necrotising enterocolitis, causing sections of bowel tissue to die, akin to a “flesh-eating” phenomenon.
In veterinary cases, infected animals often suffer from lameness, and the bacteria eat away at the flesh, leading to gas production and blood poisoning. This unique survival story offers valuable insights into the treatment of a rare and deadly pathogen that had previously led to fatal outcomes in humans.
Re-reported from the article originally published in The Wion News