An outbreak of the bacterium, Burkholderia cepacia, at Hospital Dr. Luis Felipe Guevara Rojas in El Tigre, Anzoátegui State, Venezuela has sickened 22 infants, according to the College of Physicians in the country (computer translated).

Scanning Electron Micrograph of Burkholderia cepacia/CDC
Scanning Electron Micrograph of Burkholderia cepacia/CDC

Pediatric infectious disease physician, Irimar Del Moral suggests the outbreak is linked to water shortages, which has been going on for six months. “The water shortages have worsened in the past 30 days. The short supply is then stored and is likely the source of the outbreak”, Del Moral notes.

To make matters worse, Del Moral says shortages of antibiotics are a major part of the outbreak problem as no antibiotics have been available in two days.

In addition, there are reports of another hospital acquired infection popping up at the hospital-Stenotrophomonas maltophilia.

The bad situation has prompted calls for the resignation of regional health authorities.

Burkholderia cepacia is the name for a group or “complex” of bacteria that can be found in soil and water. Burkholderia cepacia bacteria are often resistant to common antibiotics. Burkholderia cepacia poses little medical risk to healthy people; however, it is a known cause of infections in hospitalized patients. People with certain health conditions, like weakened immune systems or chronic lung diseases (particularly cystic fibrosis), may be more susceptible to infections with Burkholderia cepacia.

This follows reports of outbreaks of diphtheria and malaria in Venezuela. The number of malaria cases are set to break all records and the reemergence of diphtheria has medical professionals concerned about a nationwide outbreak.

“We’re very worried because there could be an epidemic in the rest of the country,” according to Doctor Ana Carvajal, a coauthor of a joint report from the Venezuelan Society of Public Health and the National Network of Epidemiology Defenders .

In the 1920s, vaccination programs almost entirely eradicated the disease in much of the developed world, and until now Venezuela’s last case was reported in 1992.

For the past year, Venezuela has faced chronic shortages of medical supplies, including basic medicine.