What Is a Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Infection Like?

Updated on September 17, 2018
donotfear profile image

Annette Sharp holds a BAAS in Behavioral Science from Texas A&M. She is a counselor and motivator with an empathetic heart.

This "flesh-eating" bacteria can be fatal if not treated correctly. This is my story.
This "flesh-eating" bacteria can be fatal if not treated correctly. This is my story. | Source

The Flesh-Eating Bacteria That Is Difficult to Treat

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a prevalent bacteria with serious consequences. Some refer to it as the "flesh-eating bacteria," but in reality, it merely opens the door for necrotizing fasciitis, a bacterial infection that caused tissue death.

The Pseudomonas microbe is present everywhere, mainly in soil, plants, animals, and water. It likes warm, moist environments and tends to infect people with compromised immune systems, though any healthy individual can become infected under the right circumstances. Pseudomonas frequently infects tissues from burns, open cuts, or abrasions, and it can affect the internal organs as well. It can be fatal if not treated properly because the organism is extremely resistant to most antibiotics. I call it the Super Bug. That's why I'm sharing my first-hand experience with this formidable microorganism.

How I Was Infected

Here's how it started: I tripped on a piece of old, rusty iron and grazed my ankle. I slightly bruised a couple of ribs in the process, but it was not serious enough for a hospital visit. Upon closer inspection, and a lot of burning pain, I could see that the cut across the tender, thin skin on my ankle was gaping open. It looked as if it might need stitches, so I taped it together, took a couple of Advils for the pain, and decided I'd deal with it later.

I got a Tetanus shot the next day. After a week, I could see it wasn't getting much better and thought that maybe I needed some antibiotics, though I was already taking loads of garlic and treating it with a regular antibiotic ointment (in combination with some natural remedies). I tried to take a round of Keflex, but it gave me such a headache that I stopped after five days. Then I began using Vetericyn on it, which seemed to dry the wound up and get rid of the redness.

I made a big mistake when I went on a trail ride, got over-heated, then jumped into the river with my bandaged ankle. There I was, wide open for all the bacteria in the river—it was like I had opened the door and invited it in! A week or so later, I started a 10 day round of Amoxicillin and continued using the Vetericyn. When the wound wasn't getting any better after the last round of antibiotics, I figured I needed to do something different.

I Decided to Have It Checked at the Hospital

I visited my primary physician's office to get a verdict. The LVN on duty took one look at it and immediately called the wound care nurse, who thankfully just so happened to be there that day. After inspecting the wound, she immediately ordered a thorough cleaning of the infected tissue, including several shots directly into the mass in order to deaden it.

Did I say ouch? Ha! Does a chicken have a beak?

I held my breath while she scraped away the dead tissue, and then she cultured the inside of the cut to find out what kind of infection we were dealing with. She sent the sample to the lab. It would take a few days to find out for sure what type of bacteria it was. The doctor prescribed a 10-day course of Ciprofloxacin, a super-mega antibiotic prescribed for exceptionally resistant bacteria.

How My Infection Was Treated

When I returned to wound care three days later, my nurse told me the culture showed a heavy growth of the bacteria known as Pseudomonas. She explained that in order for the wound to improve, I would need to soak the infected area with a special mixture of bleach and water called Dakin's Solution. She advised me to soak in the solution for 10 to 20 minutes every other day.

I began the soaks immediately. I had to adjust the bleach mixture several times until I got it just right, as it began to sting and burn. After each soak, I dabbed the area dry and packed the inside of the wound with a specially treated silver-coated activated carbon fiber, wrapped the wound with nonstick cotton gauze, and covered the area with a waterproof bandage protector.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The progress of my infected cut. This was taken about 3 weeks after the cut.8/25/2012. This was the healing progress  after starting the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin, Dakin's Solution soaks, and application of the silver carbon fiber.9/1/2012. Notice the healthy, white tissue beginning to appear around the edges.9/5/2012. More healthy tissue, and my nerve endings were becoming activated.9/7/2012. I experienced stinging and pain from the nerve repair. My circulation returned to the area.9/15/2012. I had very little pain, but the area was still sensitive.10/17/2012. New tissue developed, and the outer layer of my skin was restored.3/17/2013. Six months later, all that was left was a scar.
The progress of my infected cut. This was taken about 3 weeks after the cut.
The progress of my infected cut. This was taken about 3 weeks after the cut. | Source
8/25/2012. This was the healing progress  after starting the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin, Dakin's Solution soaks, and application of the silver carbon fiber.
8/25/2012. This was the healing progress after starting the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin, Dakin's Solution soaks, and application of the silver carbon fiber.
9/1/2012. Notice the healthy, white tissue beginning to appear around the edges.
9/1/2012. Notice the healthy, white tissue beginning to appear around the edges.
9/5/2012. More healthy tissue, and my nerve endings were becoming activated.
9/5/2012. More healthy tissue, and my nerve endings were becoming activated.
9/7/2012. I experienced stinging and pain from the nerve repair. My circulation returned to the area.
9/7/2012. I experienced stinging and pain from the nerve repair. My circulation returned to the area.
9/15/2012. I had very little pain, but the area was still sensitive.
9/15/2012. I had very little pain, but the area was still sensitive.
10/17/2012. New tissue developed, and the outer layer of my skin was restored.
10/17/2012. New tissue developed, and the outer layer of my skin was restored.
3/17/2013. Six months later, all that was left was a scar.
3/17/2013. Six months later, all that was left was a scar.

How to Prevent an Infection From Pseudomonas Bacteria.

  1. If you have an open cut, stay out of untreated bodies of water such as rivers, creeks, lakes, and the ocean.
  2. Cover all open wounds when working outside and in or near soil or plants.
  3. Pay close attention to any cut or laceration, even if it looks minor.
  4. Make sure to see a doctor or visit your local emergency room if the cut is gaping open.
  5. Let your healthcare provider decide if you need stitches or an antibiotic.

What I Learned From the Experience

The healing process was definitely a learning experience for me. After fighting a battle with Lyme Disease two years before, I thought I had this "bacteria stuff" all figured out. I was wrong. If I get any type of deep laceration or cut, I'm going to give it the attention it deserves without trying to diagnose myself. When an injury seems a bit more severe than average, I'll visit the doctor's office immediately!

Pseudomonas aeruginosa can have serious consequences. Though my infection didn't reach the flesh-eating stage, it could have had a devastating effect if left untreated. The Pseudomonas microbe is not something to be taken lightly. Because of its presence in soil, plants, animals, and water, it's relevantly easy to get and hard to treat. Bear in mind, people with compromised immune systems may be at higher risk of contracting the bacteria, though any healthy individual can become infected.

Always remember that if not treated properly, the injury can become serious and even fatal. I believe the name Super Bug suits this complex, antibiotic-resistant bacteria. I truly hope that sharing my first-hand experience with this formidable microorganism will make you aware of the dangers of Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Don't Leave Your Infection Untreated

Pseudomonas aeruginosa it can be devastating if left untreated. Those with compromised immune systems may be at higher risk of contracting the bacteria, though any healthy individual can become infected. Always remember that, if not treated properly, the injury can become serious and even fatal.

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    • donotfear profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Thomas 

      4 years ago from Northeast Texas

      Rachel: I'm sorry your father is having so much trouble. I hope hope you will be firm with the hospital staff and demand answers. If they are not taking the advice of his GP, something is very very wrong with this hospital! Good luck....and God bless your father!

    • profile image

      rachel mcelhinney 

      4 years ago

      Very useful article, thanks.

      my father has this infection in his chest after triple heart bypass last March.

      do to this infection his sternum shattered and had to have 3 additional surgeries to cut out infected tissue.

      he currently still has 3 oozing holes in his chest, infection is still there. being left untreated by kings college hospital who have ignored 2 letters from the GP stating he needs to be hospitalized for IV anti biotics. after complaining about lack of treatment and his deteriorating health due to this infection i have a meeting with the hospital trust today.

      lets hope they will start treating it rather than ignoring it as its hard to treat.

    • donotfear profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Thomas 

      5 years ago from Northeast Texas

      Flourish, it could happen to anyone!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      5 years ago from USA

      Oh my gosh. This has me weak kneed but better educated.

    • donotfear profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Thomas 

      5 years ago from Northeast Texas

      Thanks Susan....

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I can now see how this is very similar to what I had. My arm swelled up to twice its size though. Scary stuff we can come in contact with. I always keep a huge bottle of hydrogen peroxide in my kitchen in case I get the slightest cut.

      Voted up +++ and sharing. More people need to be aware of this.

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