The Rise of Flesh-Eating Bacteria: What You Need to Know
Flesh-eating bacteria may sound like something out of a horror movie, but they are very real and can cause serious infections and complications. In this article, we will explore two types of flesh-eating bacteria that affect humans: Mycobacterium ulcerans and necrotizing fasciitis. We will also discuss the symptoms, causes, treatments, and prevention of these conditions.
What Is Mycobacterium Ulcerans?
Mycobacterium ulcerans is a species of bacteria that can infect the skin and soft tissue, causing a condition known as Buruli ulcer. Buruli ulcer is a chronic debilitating disease that can lead to permanent disfigurement and long-term disability.
Buruli ulcer often starts as a painless swelling or nodule on the arms or legs, which can develop into a large ulcer with a whitish-yellow base. The bacteria produce a toxin called mycolactone, which destroys the tissue and suppresses the immune system.
Buruli ulcer has been reported in 33 countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and the Western Pacific. Most cases occur in tropical and subtropical regions near slow-moving or stagnant water. The exact mode of transmission of M. ulcerans is still unknown, but it may involve the bite of an aquatic insect or the infection of open wounds.
Buruli ulcer can be cured with early detection and a combination of antibiotics. However, without treatment or sometimes during treatment, the ulcer can worsen and affect the bone and joints, causing deformities and disabilities. Surgery may be required to remove dead tissue or repair damaged structures.
What Is Necrotizing Fasciitis?
Necrotizing fasciitis is another type of flesh-eating bacterial infection that affects the fascia, which is the connective tissue that surrounds the muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. Necrotizing fasciitis is a severe and rapidly spreading infection that can cause death.
Necrotizing fasciitis can be caused by various types of bacteria, usually mixed anaerobic and aerobic bacteria. The most common bacteria involved are group A Streptococcus (GAS) and Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Necrotizing fasciitis usually enters the body through a break in the skin, such as a cut or burn. The bacteria multiply and release toxins that kill the tissue and lower the blood pressure. The infection can spread quickly to other parts of the body and cause organ failure and shock.
Necrotizing fasciitis can cause severe pain, redness, swelling, blisters, fever, nausea, vomiting, and shock. The affected skin may turn purple or black due to lack of blood supply. The infection can also cause gas bubbles under the skin that can be felt or heard when pressed.
Necrotizing fasciitis requires immediate medical attention and aggressive treatment. Treatment involves intravenous antibiotics, surgery to remove dead tissue, and supportive care such as fluids and oxygen. Sometimes amputation of the affected limb may be necessary to save the life of the patient.
How to Prevent Flesh-Eating Bacteria Infections?
Flesh-eating bacteria infections are rare but serious conditions that can have devastating consequences. Therefore, it is important to take preventive measures to reduce the risk of getting infected. Some of these measures include:
- Practicing good hygiene and washing your hands frequently with soap and water.
- Cleaning and covering any wounds or injuries with sterile dressings.
- Seeking medical care for any signs of infection such as redness, swelling, pain, fever, or pus.
- Avoiding contact with contaminated water or soil where flesh-eating bacteria may be present.
- Strengthening your immune system by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and managing stress.
- Getting vaccinated against tetanus and other diseases that may increase your susceptibility to flesh-eating bacteria.
Flesh-eating bacteria are not a myth but a reality that can affect anyone at any time. Mycobacterium ulcerans and necrotizing fasciitis are two types of flesh-eating bacteria that can cause severe skin and soft tissue infections that can lead to permanent damage or death. By being aware of the symptoms, causes, treatments, and prevention of these conditions, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from these dangerous diseases.