What is Flesh-Eating Bacteria? Is it Common?

flesh-eating bacteria

What is flesh-eating bacteria? Is it common? Formally known as necrotizing fasciitis, this tissue disease is rare. But the bacteria that causes this dreadful condition can be found everywhere. It can even be on your skin right now at this moment. But how does this bacteria cause a frightening life-threatening disease? Let’s take a look at some facts about necrotizing fasciitis.

What is Necrotizing Fasciitis?

“Necrotizing” means tissue death. Fasciitis refers to the inflammation of deep, connective tissue that wraps around organs and holds body parts together. Necrotizing Fasciitis happens when this soft tissue becomes infected and dies. 

What Causes Necrotizing Fasciitis?

Group A Streptococcus is a common bacteria living on our skin. It usually doesn’t cause any harm. But if we get a cut, burn, or insect bite, the bacteria can get into the deep layers of tissue, When bacteria reaches this facial layer of skin, it can spread quickly, affecting muscles, nerves, and fat and eventually causing tissue death. The cause of this disease isn’t only Group A Streptococcus. Most of the time it’s a mixture of bacteria, like clostridium, pseudomonos, and staphylococcus.

What are the Symptoms of Flesh-Eating Bacteria?

The infected area is typically marked by a red, purplish rash, severe pain, or fever. As tissue starts to die, you will notice black discoloration of the skin. The disease becomes deadly when the bacteria gets into the blood system, causing a fatal condition known as sepsis. If toxins are released into your blood supply, you can also develop another fatal condition called toxic shock syndrome. Organs begin to fail and blood pressure drops rapidly.

Who is At Risk for Flesh-Eating Bacteria?

Anyone can develop necrotizing fasciitis, but people with weak immune systems are at higher risk. This includes people with diabetes, cancer, and liver disease. Weakened immune systems make it hard to fight off bacteria that enters the body.

How is it Diagnosed?

Doctors may draw blood, take a tissue sample, or perform a CT or MRI scan to confirm that a patient has necrotizing fasciitis. In some cases death can occur within 12 to 24 hours, so it’s important to go to the ER immediately if you have an infected wound.

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