Flesh-eating bacteria may sound like the premise of a bad horror movie, but it’s a growing threat to humans and can be deadly.
In September 2023, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory alerting doctors and public health officials to an increase in cases of flesh-eating bacteria that can cause serious wound infections.
I am a professor at Indiana University School of Medicine and my laboratory studies microbiology and infectious diseases. That’s why the CDC is so focused on this deadly infection and ways to avoid getting it.
What does “eat meat” mean?
There are several types of bacteria that can infect open wounds and cause a rare disease called necrotizing fasciitis. Not only do these bacteria damage the surface of the skin, they also release toxins that damage underlying tissue, including muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. Once bacteria reach the bloodstream, they can readily enter other tissues and organ systems. If left untreated, necrotizing fasciitis can be fatal, sometimes within 48 hours.
Group A bacteria Streptococcus, or group A strep, is the most common culprit of necrotizing fasciitis.But the CDC’s latest warning points to another suspect, a drug called Harmful Vibrio.Only 150 to 200 cases Harmful Vibrio This occurs every year in the United States, but the mortality rate is high, with one in five people dying from the infection.
How to catch flesh-eating bacteria?
Harmful Vibrio Lives mainly in warm ocean waters, but can also be found in salt water (areas where ocean mixes with fresh water). Most infections in the United States occur during the warmer months, between May and October. People who swim, fish, or wade in these bodies of water may become infected with the bacteria through open wounds or sores.
Harmful Vibrio Seafood caught from these waters is also available, especially shellfish such as oysters. Eating raw or undercooked foods can cause food poisoning, and handling these foods in the presence of open wounds can provide an entry point for bacteria, leading to necrotizing fasciitis. In the U.S, Harmful Vibrio is the leading cause of seafood-related deaths.
Why are flesh-eating bacterial infections on the rise?
Harmful Vibrio Found in warm coastal waters around the world. In the United States, this includes the southern Gulf Coast states. But rising ocean temperatures due to global warming are creating new habitats for the bacteria, which can now be found along the East Coast as far north as New York and Connecticut.A recent study stated Harmful Vibrio Wound infections increased eightfold in eastern U.S. between 1988 and 2018
Climate change is also fueling stronger hurricanes and storm surges, which have been linked to a surge in cases of flesh-eating bacterial infections.
In addition to rising water temperatures, there is also an increase in the number of people most vulnerable to serious infections, including people with diabetes and those taking immune-suppressing medications.
What are the symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis? How to treat?
Early symptoms of an infected wound include fever, redness, severe pain, or swelling in the injured area. If you experience these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. Necrotizing fasciitis progresses rapidly, producing ulcers, blisters, skin discoloration, and pus.
Treating flesh-eating bacteria is a race against time. Clinicians inject antibiotics directly into the bloodstream to kill bacteria. In many cases, surgery is required to remove damaged tissue to stop the rapid spread of infection. Sometimes this results in amputation of the affected limb.
Researchers worry that more and more cases are becoming untreatable because Harmful Vibrio Resistance to certain antibiotics has evolved.
How can I protect myself?
The CDC offers several suggestions to help prevent infection.
People with fresh cuts, including people with new piercings or tattoos, are advised not to come into contact with water that may harbor bacteria. Harmful Vibrio. Otherwise, the wound should be completely covered with a waterproof bandage.
People with open wounds should also avoid contact with raw seafood or fish. Wounds that occur while fishing, preparing seafood, or swimming should be washed immediately and thoroughly with soap and water.
Anyone can get necrotizing fasciitis, but people with weakened immune systems are most at risk of severe illness. This includes people taking immunosuppressive medications or people with pre-existing conditions such as liver disease, cancer, HIV or diabetes.
It is important to remember that necrotizing fasciitis is still very rare. But given its seriousness, it pays to stay informed about the situation.
Bill Sullivan, Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Indiana University
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.