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Flesh-Eating Bacteria Information

Necrotizing fasciitis or fasciitis necroticans, commonly known as "flesh-eating bacteria", is a rare infection of the deeper layers of skin and subcutaneous tissues (fascia). Many types of bacteria can cause necrotizing fasciitis (eg. Group A streptococcus, Vibrio vulnificus, Clostridium perfringens, Bacteroides fragilis), of which Group A streptococcus is the most common cause.

The infection occasionally starts with pharyngitis (sore throat), but more often begins locally, at a site of trauma, which may be severe (such as the result of surgery), minor, or even non-apparent. The affected skin is very painful, red, hot and swollen. Skin color may progress to violet and blisters may form, with subsequent necrosis (death) of subcutaneous tissues. Patients with necrotizing fasciitis typically have a fever and appear very ill. More severe cases progress within hours, and the death rate is high, about 25%.

The diagnosis is confirmed by either blood cultures or aspiration of pus from tissue. Early medical treatment is crucial. Treatment often includes intravenous penicillin, vancomycin and clindamycin. If necrotizing fasciitis is suspected, surgical exploration is always necessary, often resulting in aggressive debridement (removal of infected tissue). Amputation of the affected organ(s) may be necessary.

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