Where antibiotics no longer works for newborns
- Abigail was given two antibiotics, penicillin and gentamicin, a combination meant to kill a wide range of bacteria.
- The drugs didn't seem to work, and she was soon given ceftriaxone and metronidazole, but there was still no improvement.
- Her medical notes state that she then became floppy and passed out once more.
In a sweltering room in the corner of the Chatinkha nursery in Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi, Lilian Matchaya is expressing milk.
Her daughter, Abigail, is nearby, lying in a wooden cot with a UV light overhead keeping her at the right temperature.
Her head wrapped in a bandage, Abigail has a plastic feeding tube going into her nose.
Matchaya, 38, inserts a syringe of breast milk into the tube, and it travels slowly down the translucent pipe.
The sounds of infants crying, machines beeping and nurses pushing trolleys fill the ward.
Abigail was born prematurely at seven months and weighed just 1.8 kilograms (3 pounds) at birth, little more than a bag of flour.
She needed an injection of aminophylline, which dilates the lung’s cells, to help her breathe, and the day after her birth, nurses found her passed out with blood in her stool.
Babies, especially those born prematurely, are especially vulnerable to infection, as their immune systems haven’t developed properly.
Doctors suspected that Abigail had sepsis, a serious and potentially fatal condition in which bacteria get into the bloodstream.
In response, the body’s immune system goes into overdrive, and organs begin to shut down.
Abigail was given two antibiotics, penicillin and gentamicin, a combination meant to kill a wide range of bacteria.
The drugs didn’t seem to work, and she was soon given ceftriaxone and metronidazole, but there was still no improvement.
Her medical notes state that she then became floppy and passed out once more.
Lab results revealed that she was infected with a drug-resistant form of Klebsiella.
The bacteria were resistant to most of the drugs Abigail had been given, meaning the medications were not working to kill her infection.
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