RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) — One month ago, 20-year-old beauty queen Mariana Bridi was living the dream of many young Brazilian women, trading her striking good looks for a modeling career that promised to lift her family out of poverty.
Then she contracted a seemingly ordinary urinary tract infection. The bacteria spread quickly and inexorably through her body, proving to be extremely drug resistant. In a desperate bid to save her life, doctors amputated her hands and feet. But by Saturday she was dead.
"God is comforting our hearts because he wanted her to be with him now," her father Agnaldo Costa told reporters outside the hospital where his daughter died. "I can't accept that my daughter left us so soon."
Bridi's Web site says she began modeling at age 14 with the hope of giving "a dignified life to her parents."
Her father is a taxi driver and her mother a house cleaner.
By the age of 18, she was well on her way: In 2007 and 2008, she was a finalist in the Brazilian stage of the Miss World pageant.
Her Web site said next month she was to participate in the second stage of a modeling competition held in Sao Paulo by Dilson Stein, the Brazilian model scout who discovered supermodel Gisele Bundchen.
Last year, she took fourth in the Face of the Universe competition in South Africa and she had won bikini competitions across the globe.
The Miss World Brazil organization said she was an example of someone "who knew how to intensely live her life."
Half a dozen memorial groups on Facebook had already sprung up just hours after her death. On Bridi's own page on Orkut — the most popular Web social networking site in Brazil — dozens of memorial messages were left.
The course of her illness was swift.
In late December, she fell ill and doctors in her native state of Espirito Santo — northeast of Rio de Janeiro — initially diagnosed as having kidney stones.
She returned to a hospital on Jan. 3 in septic shock — life-threatening low blood pressure — from the infection that would force doctors to amputate first her feet, then her hands. Doctors said there was little they could do but pump drugs into her and hope for the best.
It was a nightmare scenario for anyone with an infection: Her body did not react to the latest and most potent drugs while the bacteria in her veins spread from head to toe.
In Bridi's case, the culprit was the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is known to be drug resistant.
According to the January 2008 book "Pseudomonas: Genomics and Molecular Biology," edited by Pierre Cornelis, a researcher at the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology in Brussels, the bacteria has the "worrisome characteristic" of "low antibiotic susceptibility." It also easily mutates to develop resistance to new drugs.
Death from infections caused by the bacteria are relatively rare, but not unheard of: In late 2006, an outbreak of the bacteria at White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles sickened five infants — leading to the deaths of two of them.
The bacteria causes about 10 percent of the roughly two million hospital-acquired infections each year in the U.S., according to health officials.
A short statement from the Espirito Santo State Health Secretariat announced her death on Saturday "despite all the commitment of the hospital team."
Her aunt said the hundreds of messages left on her Web site had lifted Bridi's spirit in the past weeks.
"I believe that the serenity on her face came from this spiritual comfort," Oriendina Pereira Wasen said outside the hospital.
Bridi's funeral was planned for Saturday afternoon in the town of Marechal Floriano.
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Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.