Teen Facing Hand Amputation After Fish Tank Scratch

Fish tanks! They seem like such peaceful places. But as 13-year-old Hannele Cox will tell you, they sometimes contain hidden, flesh-eating bacteria that can seriously mess with your health and your life.

Five years ago Cox, who hails from San Bernadino County, California, cut her hand while pulling it out of a fish tank. It was just a tiny scratch! Yet it created a pathway for Mycobacterium marinum—microscopic creatures that sometimes cause a chronic skin infection called fishtank granuloma (also known as "aquarium granuloma" and "swimming pool granuloma," for those of you who enjoy freaking yourself out with malady-related Internet searches). Cox's hand started oozing, and she was put on antibiotics. But nothing could stop the bacteria, which have the very obnoxious habit of eating people's tissue and bones.

Thus began Cox's medical saga:

Doctors at both Loma Linda Medical Center and UCLA have tried all kinds of antibiotics and done two surgeries, but the bacteria continues to get stronger, and has become drug-resistant.

The "superbug" is now infecting the bones in Hannele's hand.

Because of the bacteria-terrorists, Cox has had to give up gymnastics, volleyball, horseback riding, and other things she loves. And now she might have to give up her actual hand. Ugh, this poor girl. But there's hope: her family's found a specialist who's described as "among the few to successfully treat this very rare infection." We hope she finds a treatment that works, recovers fully, and gets to resume her life ASAP.

Lest you think that Mycobacterium marinum dwell only in fish tanks, please keep in mind that you are wrong. They also live in plain old sea water, on fishhooks, and sometimes in swimming pools. They are everywhere. [Orlando Sentinel]