The flesh-eating bacteria is the culprit behind necrotizing fasciitis. Athough rare, this flesh-eating bacterial infection is very serious.
About Necrotizing Fasciitis and the Flesh-Eating Bacteria Behind It
Necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating bacteria disease, is an infection that starts below the skin, in the tissues, and spreads along the fascia that separate the tissue layers. It is a serious infection that impacts, most commonly, the arms, legs, and abdominal region. It is “fatal in 30%-40% of cases”. The common bacterium associated with this type of infection is Streptococcus pyogene, a member of the strep family of bacteria. Strep bacteria also cause sore throat and toxic shock syndrome. Other bacteria can cause necrotizing fasciitis, such as Aeromonas hydrophila. General symptoms of the disease are swelling, pain, redness, blisters, nausea, vomiting, and fever. The onset of symptoms is rapid, and late symptoms are scaling, discoloration, peeling of the skin, and gangrene. Patients with chronic disorders and weak immune systems, such as with cancer and diabetes, are most at risk of getting necrotizing fasciitis; however, many healthy people can get it as well. Wounds, surgery, rash, and viral infections (i.e.,chickenpox) are also risk factors.1 When the bacteria enter the body, they release toxins that kill the tissue. After the tissue is dead, the bacteria spread through the body via the blood. If the body cannot be treated successfully, sepsis (a blood infection) can occur, as well as scarring, loss of limb use, or even death.2 Other bacteria associated with necrotizing fasciitis are staphylococcal species and MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). MRSA can come from undercooked meats, exposure to waste water, and using dirty needles.3 One man developed a “rare double infection” in two areas of the body, leading to a coma.4
Treatment and Prevention
Medical treatment for necrotizing fasciitis begins with antibiotics, administered intravenously. Usually, a combination of antibiotics are used. The earlier the treatment, the better. Surgical debridement can remove the infected tissues to prevent it from spreading. An additional therapy, when available, is hyperbaric oxygen treatment. Some patients may require limb amputation. Skin grafting may also be necessary, due to leaving a large open wound when removing affected tissue. This often leads to a “systemic inflammatory response”, requiring the patients to remain in the intensive care unit of the hospital, perhaps in the burn ward. It is critical that the environment remains antiseptic, so that this disease doesn’t spread.5 Hospitals can transmit flesh-eating bacteria through catheters and feeding tubes. This can affect anyone, from cardiac patients through newborns. Sometimes these bacteria are antibiotic-resistant and difficult to treat, such as with MRSA. Some new research has shown that herbal extracts may “deter the growth of… Staphylococcus epidermidis”. A formula with “Arrowroot…, the bark of the Indian Trumpet tree…, and the whole plant parts of Tropical Spiderwort” inhibited these bacteria. “Turmeric…, Areca Palm seed…, Asian rice seed…, and Mangosteen” also inhibited biofilm growth. The promise of this research is that these combinations can prevent the growth of this staph bacteria on polystyrene and glass surfaces, which are often found in hospitals. Perhaps these extracts can help prevent hospital-acquired infections.6
Read more about antibiotic overuse.