Many residents in the Upstate are trying to learn more about an outbreak of surgical infections at Greenville Memorial Hospital which may have caused the deaths of four patients and sickened 11 more.
Last month, Greenville Health System officials revealed the 15 afflicted patients had been infected by mycobacterium abscessus following surgeries this spring. Investigators believe the bacteria somehow contaminated a hospital operating room through the use of tap water. But the preliminary investigation results released on Monday stated that officials were not certain exactly how the tap water’s use caused the infection. Monday’s announcement stated that the hospital was now using sterile water in its operating rooms.
Mycobacteria are naturally occurring and are normally not dangerous, according to Medical University of South Carolina microbiology and immunology professor Dr. Michael Schmidt. That’s because the body’s immune system can handle any such bacteria that enter through the mouth or nose.
However, Schmidt said the body is not as well-equipped to handle any mycobacteria that enter the body through unusual means like surgical wounds. “If that microbe happens to fall into us, it’s no longer in our stomach which has a tremendous amount of acid that inactivates these creatures,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “Once it gets into our sterile body cavity, it can cause disease.”