Friday, May 18, 2012

Necrotizing Fasciitis - "Flesh eating disease"

It has all the makings of a great news story: people losing limbs to a flesh-eating bacteria or disease. It's scary and it's attention getting, but what exactly is it and should you be afraid of it?

Sadly, right now, a young woman in Georgia, Aimee Copeland is fighting for her life after she contracted necrotizing fasciitis, a bacteria called streptococcus pyogenes. PubMedHealth describes it well: "The bacteria begins to grow and release harmful substances (toxins) that kill tissue and affect blood flow to the area." Often, the only way to stop the spread is to amputate the affected limb. If it occurs in a part of the body, like the belly, then major surgery to remove surrounding tissue may be needed.

The rare infection can cause a lot of damage to the immediate area. The bacteria destroy the muscles, skin, and underlying tissue. However, it is not the "flesh eating bacteria" that causes all the extra problems, which can result in organ damage and amputations of other limbs. This is sepsis - the body tries to fight the infection but goes into overdrive (

Since Aimee's accident, we've heard of another young woman in South Carolina, Luna Kuykendall, who developed the same infection after delivering her twins. Since this is a rare infection, to hear of two so close together is shocking and this is likely why it is such news.

Is it something you should be afraid of? Since necrotizing fasciitis is rare, no, it's generally not something to be worried about. But that being said, infections of any kind should be taken seriously. Any wound should be cleaned thoroughly and monitored for signs of infection (redness, increased pain, discharge from the wound) and prompt medical attention is needed if there are any signs.

If you're not convinced, check out, where you will find many stories of people whose sepsis resulted from a simple infection.

1 comment:

Zain said...
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