WebMD Medical News
Louise Chang, MD
[Editor's note: Brazilian model Mariana Bridi da Costa died Jan. 24,
Jan. 23, 2009 -- Mariana Bridi da Costa, a 20-year-old Brazilian model who
has participated in international beauty competitions, is in a hospital in
Brazil with a life-threatening infection.
Bridi da Costa, a past finalist in the Miss World Brazil competitions, has a severe blood infection called
sepsis (also known as septicemia) that began when she had a urinary tract infection,
according to Bridi da Costa's web site. Because of her illness, Bridi da Costa
had to have her stomach removed and her feet and hands amputated.
Doctors originally thought Bridi
da Costa had kidney stones; instead, she had a
urinary tract infection caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria,
according to media reports. The infection then spread to her blood.
Bridi da Costa's case is a "terrible situation," but pseudomonas
infection causing a urinary tract infection is "exceedingly rare" in
young, healthy people in the U.S., says Michael Phillips, MD, a hospital
epidemiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.
Pseudomonas bacteria are present in the U.S., but they don't cause most
urinary tract infections. Another bacterium, E. coli, is the leading
cause of U.S. urinary tract infections.
Phillips, who isn't treating Bridi da Costa, says that because urinary tract
infections caused by pseudomonas bacteria are so rare in healthy, young U.S.
adults, there aren't special steps to take to prevent those infections.
Phillips encourages patients to see a doctor if they have urinary tract
infections and says doctors should take a culture to check the cause of any
unusual or persistent urinary tract infections. "Then you can identify the
bug and then you're sure that you're on the right antibiotics," Phillips
If Bridi da Costa's infection had been diagnosed earlier, it might have made
a difference. "That's true with any infection," Phillips says.
Pseudomonas infection doesn't always prompt dramatic illness right away, but
it can progress quickly. And pseudomonas bacteria aren't the only bacteria that
can lead to sepsis if untreated.
"A wide array of bacteria, once in the bloodstream, can cause what's
happened to this young lady," Gordon Dickinson, MD, chief of adult
infectious disease at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and the
Miami VA Hospital, tells WebMD. Like Phillips, Dickinson says cases like Bridi
da Costa's are very rare and that during his career, he's seen "maybe a
handful of patients out of the blue with serious pseudomonas infection ... come
to the hospital."
Pseudomonas bacteria could travel up through the urinary tract to the
kidneys, and then get into the blood and lead to sepsis. Treatment might wipe
out or suppress the bacteria, but "the body is so heavily inflamed at that
point" and that inflammation can damage the body, says Phillips.
Bridi da Costa's stomach was
surgically removed because of internal bleeding. The reason for that internal
bleeding isn't clear from her web site. As for her amputations, sepsis can
prompt blood vessels in the hands and feet to shut down, leading to tissue
death that requires amputation. Sepsis can also cause organs to shut
SOURCES:MarianaBridi.comCNN.Fox News.Herald Sun.comMichael Phillips, MD, hospital epidemiologist, NYU Langone Medical
Center.Gordon Dickinson, MD, chief of adult infectious disease, University of Miami
Miller School of Medicine and Miami VA Hospital.
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