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Red Bugs with No Drugs – Part 4: A Family’s Perspective

Categories: Gram negatives, Healthcare-associated infections

Arjun Srinivasan, MD

I have appreciated the thoughtful and lively discussion on this series. It is clear that we need new drugs to combat multi-drug resistant Gram-negative bacteria, but it’s also clear that there is much we can do right now, today, to fight them — using antibiotics wisely and adhering to infection control procedures. However, with all of our discussions about the science, I think it’s important that we close this series by taking a moment to reflect on exactly why this issue is so urgent and important.

Josh Nahum

Josh Nahum, an avid sky diver, lost his life to a Gram-negative infection. He was 27 years old. His parents, Victoria and Armando Nahum, are directors of the Safe Care Campaign.

Please see the personal story below from Victoria and Armando Nahum, who after losing their son to a Gram-negative infection, are spearheading important work toward eliminating these infections. Their story reminds us that our work is far from done.

– Arjun Srinivasan

The Story of Josh Nahum

Victoria and Armando Nahum

Safe Care Campaign
Atlanta, Georgia

Antimicrobial resistance is one of the scariest prospects patients and families now face while receiving care in a hospital or other healthcare facility. We know this all too well. We lost our son Josh to a Gram-negative infection in 2006.

Certainly organisms such as MRSA and C. difficile remain complex problems. However, Gram-negative infections loom heavy as one of the greatest challenges of our time because this type of bacteria can beat most or all antibiotics.

Once a loved one acquires a Gram-negative infection, chances are that the outlook for recovery is dire. Josh’s infection struck him while he was recuperating from an accident and on a hopeful path to a good recovery. Just as he was progressing, his infection was discovered within his cerebral spinal fluid. From there, it continued to develop rapidly, causing unbelievable pressure around his brain – so much pressure that it actually pushed part of his brain into his spinal column making him a permanent ventilator-dependent quadriplegic.

Josh died 2 weeks later. He was 27.

Our hope for the future is 3-fold:

  1. That patients and their families educate themselves on how to safely receive medical care prior to a hospital admission whenever possible.
  2. That compulsive hand hygiene and infection control compliance is practiced by everyone who comes into contact with the patient.
  3. That drug companies will invest in research to fight these virulent bacteria that some call “The Rising Plague”.

Public Comments

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this blog is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

  1. August 27, 2011 at 3:57 pm ET  -   Delaware

    Hey very nice article. A question, even though you have great info how can you be sure about all of this?

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  2. July 12, 2010 at 10:33 am ET  -   Sue Thomas

    Certainly it is dramatic and shocking that someone died perhaps unnecessarily and painfully, but when did you ever see a family member assure their cleanliness before and after touching a loved one or bringing a potentially contaminated product into the facility? Manicured fingernails that are minimally washed in order to preserved the aethetic, fast food containers that are notoriously exposed to multiple contaminants, the germs identified from the surface of ladies purses, the personal clothing….Perhaps we the public could and should take more responsibility.

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  3. May 28, 2010 at 7:37 am ET  -   abbigailtumpey

    Thanks, Leanne! We appreciate the feedback. The Nahum’s are very near and dear to our hearts. The work they are doing is tremendous. Let us know if you have other suggestions for blog topics. Next week, we will tackle C. difficile.

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  4. May 28, 2010 at 2:29 am ET  -   Leanne Kaufman

    If only I had a greenback for every time I came to Incredible writing.

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  5. May 17, 2010 at 1:22 am ET  -   physical therapist

    What a great resource!

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  6. May 6, 2010 at 6:27 pm ET  -   Michael E. Bailey

    Gram Negative Bacteria are something that we need new antibiotics to deal with. The details of how these organisims invade and take over a host, their molecular and cellular biology that makes them antibiotic resistant must be clearly understood. More basic research is needed leading to new medications to deal with this problem. The drug companies need to put forward much more effort than they are. The CDC needs to make this a priority issue and then take a leadership role in helping to solve it with the drug companies. In the meantime, it sounds like the best defense to keep these bacteria from spreading is frequent hand washing by everyone dealing with patients and keeping the patient ward rooms as clean and sanitized as possible. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey, People First, Califorhnia, Orange County Chapter.

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  7. May 6, 2010 at 4:47 pm ET  -   David Shlaes

    I wrote a blog not too long ago,, noting that the CDC itself is doing a very poor job of documenting the risk of resistant Gram negative infections – I surmise because of chronic underfunding in this crucial area. So one thing we can do better is provide physicians, patients and researchers with better surveillance data.

    Unfortunately, between industry consolidation and the abandonment of antibiotic research by the large pharma companies still left, our antibiotic pipeline for Gram negative infections is miserable. One of the main obstacles to industry today is the absence of a clear regulatory pathway to approval of a new antibiotic. Until this regulatory uncertainty is resolved, we can look forward to fewer companies doing antibiotic research and an even more paltry pipeline.

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  8. May 6, 2010 at 2:32 pm ET  -   James Johnson

    Can we learn what was the organism and its susceptibility pattern? And what body part did the infection involve initially, before it spread to the CSF? Also, how was it treated? Was there a delay in instituting appropriate (for this organism) antibiotic therapy because of unsuspected antimicrobial resistance? Or did the infection progress despite seemingly appropriate treatment?

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