Necrotizing Fasciitis? Ew!
Trust me, you won't want to see pictures of this devastating infection.
The name of this bacterial infection is self-explanatory; "necro", meaning "the dead", and "fasciitis" means an infection of connective tissue. Tissue dies, but is not eaten, contrary to popular belief. In the United States alone, about 500-1500 cases of this serious infection are reported, although cases are discovered all around the world. The interesting thing is that this infection is most often caused by the same type of bacteria that causes Strep throat and impetigo, which is group A streptococcus, but can be caused by any bacteria. The only difference is that the strains of bacteria are different.
The deal is that you get this infection from direct contact with anyone with group A streptococcus through nose and throat discharges, or if airborne bacteria enters a wound. The bacteria are most often found at the throat, and sometimes the skin. Few people actually develop invasive GAS, which is any case in which group A streptococcus (GAS) invades soft tissue rather than remaining at the throat or skin. Developing invasive GAS depends on the toxins and enzymes released from the certain strain of GAS. The strains associated with necrotizing fasciitis and other cases of rapid tissue destruction release the exotoxins A (which acts as a superantigen and releases a dangerously superfluous amount of the tissue-damaging cytokine) and B (which breaks down tissue proteins). Theseverity of a case could also depend on the circumstance of current health, such as having breaks in the skin like after surgery, or a chronic disease or one that involves a weak immunity. Also, you could have GAS and not even know it; it may not be a serious strain of the bacteria, and even if it is, symptoms aren't always exhibited.
Once you've gotten the infection, the primary symptoms resemble that of the flu. Then they include those of an inflammatory response at the entry wound. Later, the pain grows worse, urination is irregular, and you get a rash that resembles a sunburn. You may get dark, boil-like blisters, and you could go into shock from toxins released from the bacterial strain that affects your key organs, like your heart, lungs, and kidneys. The tissue will begin to die and decay.
Preventing this infection includes washing hands or wounds frequently, avoiding those with GAS (if you're aware they have it), and using antibiotic ointments or the like for treating cuts or openings in the skin. Check with a doctor to see if your sore throat is in fact strep throat, so you can take antibiotics, such as penicillin, for the full 24 hours (failing to take them for the full recommended period may not inhibit all of the bacteria). If you already have the infection, which can be diagnosed with tests of infected tissue or blood, you can take antibiotics, and affected areas will need to be amputated. Unfortunately, there are no vaccines against this infection, and many people die as a result of not catching this disease in time. There are, however, many survivor stories from people who have caught up with necrotizing fasciitis and have lived to tell their experience against the treachery of this disease.
- Welcome to the National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation
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- Flesh-Eating Bacteria Controversy (Morgana's Observatory)
Flesh-Eating Bacteria -- Necrotizing fasciitis: Information and links.
- Streptococcal Infections