13-year-old Hannele Cox of San Bernardino, CA has been battling a rare bacteria called Mycobacterium marinum, also known as fish tank granuloma. She became infected with the bacteria after sticking her hand in a fish tank. She says, “I pulled my hand out and got a little scratch, and from there, everything came tumbling down.” KTLA reports, “She thought nothing of the cut at first, until her mother, Amy, noticed the wound was oozing.”
Five years later, Hannele is in constant pain, and as a result of the superbug living in her system, she may lose her hand.
“The bacteria is not contagious,” KTLA reports, “but it causes skin wounds and, more alarmingly, eats away at deeper tissues and bones.” Hannele has had two surgeries and taken several antibiotics, “but the bacteria continues to get stronger, and has become drug-resistant.” Human Mycobacterium marinum skin infections are rare and can be “picked up from aquariums or fish that have tuberculosis.” There’s no way to tell if a fish tank may contain the bacteria.
Gawker notes that Hannele “has had to give up gymnastics, volleyball, horseback riding, and other things she loves.” She told reporters, “I am afraid of losing my hand. I’m afraid of the things that I’m not going to be able to do when I grow older.” Hannele will undergo surgery at UCLA this week and she will head to Denver in the next couple of weeks to start treatment and surgery with a specialist “who is among the few to successfully treat this very rare infection,” KTLA reports.