By Dr. Manpreet Grewal
Necrotizing fasciitis, popularly known as flesh-eating bacteria, is an infection which stops blood circulating, causing tissue death near the site of the infection. The bacteria enters the body during surgery or as the result of an injury, including minor cuts, insect bites, and abrasions. Once the infection begins, it destroys muscle, skin, and fat tissue.
Patients will begin to experience symptoms during the first 24 hours after infection, including pain that is unusually severe for the appearance of the injury, flu-like symptoms, and dehydration. Over the next several days, the area will swell and/or develop a purplish rash. When tissue death begins to occur, you will notice discoloration, peeling, and flakiness, along with blisters filled with bad-smelling fluid.
Because many of the early symptoms are so similar to other, more common conditions, doctors often diagnose the condition based on advanced symptoms, and will use lab analysis of fluid and tissue samples to identify the bacteria.
Treatment for this condition includes antibiotics, surgery to remove the damaged tissue and prevent any further spread of infection. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be employed in order to preserve the healthy tissue. Your doctor may also recommend IV immunoglobulin, in order to help your body fight the infection.
Infectious disease specialists suggest that we will see an increase in cases of flesh-eating bacteria due to climate change. The bacteria flourishes in warmer waters, and also thrives on organic material such as red tide.