UAE: Expat beats deadly infection after 54-day battle for life

Cepacia syndrome is a fatal condition affecting the respiratory system combined with multiple organ failures


Ashwani Kumar

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Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied

Published: Mon 6 Dec 2021, 11:22 AM

A 42-year-old Indian expat has beaten a rare and deadly bacterial infection after struggling between life and death for 54-days at a private hospital in Abu Dhabi.

Nitesh Sadanand Madgaocar, a driver from the Indian state of Goa, was diagnosed with cepacia syndrome – a bacterial infection with a high mortality rate of 75 per cent. Cepacia syndrome is a fatal condition affecting the respiratory system combined with multiple organ failures.

A resident in the UAE for 27 years, Nitesh returned to Abu Dhabi from a vacation in the last week of August. On August 26, he developed fever and weakness during his quarantine period in Musaffah. After two days, his condition worsened. His employer took him to Burjeel Medical City in Mohammed Bin Zayed City where he reportedly displayed all major Covid-19 symptoms: high fever, fatigue, pain in the joints, shortness of breath, and loss of smell and appetite. He was found to be diabetic, had pneumonia, tachycardia – faster heart rates and crepitation – crackling sounds in both lungs.

Without any delay, he was admitted to ICU as his oxygen saturation level was critically low. He was treated for pneumonia, and responded well to medicines. But after a week, his condition worsened again as he developed high fever and tachycardia.

He was found to be Covid-19 negative. By the second week of September, his condition improved and he was moved to room care. But soon abscesses – collection of pus – started surfacing on his skin and joints. The first abscess developed on his left knee from which doctors drained 90ml of fluid. Abscesses surfaced on different parts of his body, including liver, and he developed effusion in the left knee, acute respiratory distress and multiple cavitary lesions and septic emboli – blood clots – in the lungs.


His health deteriorated considerably, and he was again moved to the ICU. The culture reports from multiple abscesses detected a rare bacterium, ‘Burkholderia cepacia’. He was diagnosed with a rare cepacia syndrome.

A multi-disciplinary team of doctors, led by Dr Niyas Khalid, specialist internal medicine, along with Dr Georgey Koshy, took up the case.

“The team designed the treatment protocol and administered Nitesh double IV antibiotics, along with inhalational and antifungal antibiotics and steroids. It took four weeks for him to get better,” said Dr Niyas.

After a few days in the ICU, Nitesh’s health improved. The lesions in the lungs and abscesses in the liver had disappeared.

Dr Koshy said that the case was a highly complicated one.

“We are happy and proud to have helped him. I appreciate the team of doctors, especially Dr Niyas, for his timely diagnosis. Any delay in diagnosing the case would have cost a life. God has been great and kind to all of us. Nitesh recovered completely. He is healthy and fit,” he said.

It took 54 days for Nitesh to beat the rare and deadly bacterial infection.

“I am grateful to God and the doctors for this second life. When I fell ill, I had hardly thought that it was so serious. By the time I reached the hospital, my health had deteriorated considerably. I would not have come back to life if the doctors had not treated me well. They are like God to me. My family and I will always remember them in our prayers for our lifetime,” said Nitesh.

It was a tough time for his family in India. Nitesh had informed about his condition only to his wife.

“She was scared and prayed all the time for my recovery. I had asked her not to share the news with my mother as she would panic. My wife has to bear the pain all by herself,” said Nitesh, who has a four-year-old daughter.

Dr Niyas added that proper diagnosis and effective treatment have saved his life.

“It is not sure how Nitesh contracted the disease. Cepacia syndrome usually affects immunocompromised individuals like those having cystic fibrosis. Nitesh was lucky as he was immunocompetent and was not on any immune suppressant drugs or therapy.”

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