Children's Hospital Association: Researchers' Quest to Explain Popular Antibiotic Link to Respiratory Illness
Zei Uwadia made national headlines in 2018 when she walked the halls of Children's Mercy Kansas City while on life support. All told, she spent more than six months connected to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine while battling a mysterious lung ailment. Zei eventually succumbed to the illness shortly after her 17th birthday, but her memory lives on for the doctors who cared for her.
"Being able to do all this work to honor her memory goes back to her story and the strength she exhibited while she was here," says Jenna Miller, M.D., FAAP, pediatric intensivist, Children's Mercy in Kansas City, Missouri. "It's an honor to carry that forward."
That work focuses on trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, more commonly known as Bactrim. It's a regularly prescribed antibiotic used to treat a variety of ailments, including urinary tract infections, acne and skin and soft tissue infections. While the cause of Zei's lung condition was unknown, Miller and the care team at Children's Mercy began to suspect Bactrim might be behind her mysterious illness.
Since then, more parents and fellow health care professionals have reached out—and they've identified about two dozen more cases. Those patients will help inform the further research Miller and her team are now working on toward determining why this happens and what can be done to prevent it.
"It's in Zei's memory that we're able to put these patients together and hopefully save future patients from having to go through this," Miller says. "I think that's the biggest push for us—it keeps us going because we know this is what she'd want us to do and she would be proud to be a part of this."
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