A 4-year-old girl from California, Lena Mars, was bitten by an iguana during her vacation in Costa Rica in March 2022. Lena’s parents checked her into a local clinic, where she was given antibiotics and her wound was disinfected. Two weeks later, Lena’s bite wound appeared to have cleared up, but five months later, a dime-sized bump emerged on her hand in the same spot.
The parents did a biopsy on Lena, and the results revealed something astounding. Lena had succumbed to a rare bacterial infection called Mycobacterium marinum. The infection is rarely found in humans.This infection is generally found in fish, and it’s caused in humans by exposure to the bacteria in water.
Lena’s unique case will be presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in April. Doctors began treating Lena’s infection with rifampin and clarithromycin, and it seems to have responded positively to the treatment.
Lena is yet to recover completely and remains at her family’s home in San Jose, California, after the unexpected ordeal. Lena’s parents initially didn’t realize that the bump on her hand was related to the iguana bite because it had already healed.
The iguana that bit Lena was likely attracted to the sweet cake that she was eating. Iguanas are common in Costa Rica, and they are known to be calm herbivores. Lena’s case emphasizes the importance of seeking medical attention for any wound, no matter how trivial it may seem.