In recent times, you have likely heard about a bacterium mainly responsible for eating the skin of those infected. In some cases, if it is not treated in time, it represents a severe health problem.
The flesh-eating bacterium has set off alarms in the health system in recent years. The pathogen causing this infection is called Vibrio Vulnificus, although others such as group A Streptococcus and S. Aureus can be found. Contagion can occur after direct contact of an open wound with its habitat (warm waters) or after eating contaminated shellfish.
Symptoms are variable but progress rapidly that diagnosis may be complex, and medical treatment may be administered late. If you want to expand on this information, we invite you to continue reading this FastlyHealarticle about meat-eating bacteria: what it is, its symptoms, and its treatment.
Table of Contents
What are flesh-eating bacteria, and how are they spread?
The medical diagnosis of meat-eating bacteria is complicated and sometimes easily confused with necrotizing fasciitis. Although it certainly does not mean the same thing, the latter is one of the consequences of acquiring flesh-eating bacteria.
There are several types of microorganisms that act like “flesh-eating bacteria”:
- V. Vulnificus.
- Group A streptococcus (Streptococcus Pyogenes).
- Staphylococcus Aureus.
- Clostridium Perfringens.
- Aeromonas hydrophila.
- Bacteroides Fragilis.
Any meat-eating bacteria lodges in the skin, stopping blood circulation and, consequently, causing tissue death.
Acquiring the infection can mean inflammation of the fascia, the tissue under the skin, and over the muscles, fat, nerves, and blood vessels. Consequently, the death of this tissue (superficial and deep fascia), subcutaneous cellular tissue, and the rest of the skin.
The most common of them is V. vulnificus and group A streptococcus bacteria. If not treated in time, the infection can lead to a severe skin infection called necrotizing fasciitis. In this case, it may be caused by agents mixed infectious, where two or more meat-eating bacteria are present. The Louisiana Office of Public Health states that a mixed infection causes 55 to 75% of necrotizing fasciitis, that is, by a group of bacteria. On the contrary, only a small percentage, about 25 to 45%, is caused by a single bacterial entity .
How it is contracted
At this point, you may be wondering how do bacteria enter our skin? The bacteria that eat meat are transmitted by direct contact of this with our body through skin lesions such as:
- Insect bites.
- Surgical wounds.
- Stab wounds
- Blunt trauma.
This occurs when our body is exposed to contaminated water where these microorganisms commonly live, especially in waters with temperatures above 13º Celsius. Another form of transmission is the consumption of contaminated shellfish.
Infection by bacteria eating meat: symptoms.
At first, the person can see an erythematous or reddened and inflamed area that will spread. Typically, it begins at the site of the previous wound, which will be the gateway to the flesh-eating bacteria. In just a few hours, the sensitivity in the area increases until, consequently, symptoms such as:
- Blisters in the place where the flesh-eating bacteria has lodged.
- Intense pain in and around that area, as well as increased sensitivity.
- Fever, being able to reach temperatures of 40º C.
- Nausea, diarrhea, dizziness from the discomfort caused by this bacterial infection.
- Tiredness, muscle aches.
- Chills are related to sudden changes in temperature.
In severe cases, symptoms that may appear include:
- Black spots on the skin or changes in skin color.
- Pus or discharge from the infected area.
Fortunately, most people have only mild symptoms. The infection spreads only in severe cases, causing necrotizing fasciitis, which involves total tissue destruction.
The risk of transmission increases if:
- The person has another underlying disease.
- If you take immunosuppressive drugs.
- If you have liver disease, such as hemochromatosis.
The symptoms will depend on the severity of the infection and the patient’s immune status. In immunocompromised people, this becomes serious.
Infection by bacteria eating meat: treatment.
Diagnosis is often difficult for physicians due to how this bacterial infection progresses. This implies that the treatment is late. Probably, it is needed first:
- Laboratory exams.
- Computed axial tomography.
- Magnetic resonance.
The last two tests are essential to assess the condition of the tissues and the depth of the damage caused.
A typical test for a reliable diagnosis is the performance of what is known as a finger test. A trial was carried out by health personnel in the place of origin of the infection by the meat-eating bacteria.
In most cases, effectively treating a meat-eating bacterial infection will require one or more antibiotics simultaneously, depending on each patient’s characteristics. In severe cases, surgical interventions may be necessary.
The meat-eating bacterium requires immediate specialized medical attention, and the first line of attack is the use of intravenous broad-spectrum antibiotics.
Some studies indicate that the use of hyperbaric oxygen is effective in destroying anaerobic bacteria like these and thus preventing their development or growth.
Reasonable care is essential concerning the hygiene of any wound on the skin. Whatever the size, it is crucial to cover it adequately and clean it with soap and water to avoid complications.
To date, there are no vaccines against meat-eating bacteria. The main recommendation to prevent it includes avoiding bathing on beaches or swimming pools with wounds that represent a gateway for this type of bacteria.
This article is merely informative. At FastlyHeal .com, we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor if you present any condition or discomfort.
If you want to read more articles similar to Bacteria eats meat: what it is, symptoms and treatment, we recommend that you enter our Immune system category.
I am a Surgeon with a diploma in comprehensive ultrasound and surgical care residency, an area I am specializing in. During the exercise of my profession, I have realized the need for patients to know the diseases they suffer, and I can tell you that a large part of their complications is due to a lack of information. Being a health web writer allows me to transmit my experience, without borders, to all those readers eager for knowledge, educate them in the prevention of diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle.