Due to the buildup of antibiotic resistance by 'superbugs' in hospitals and even in the general population, the situation is becoming more and more serious worldwide. Researchers are looking at a variety of treatments and ways of testing these MRSA superbugs as a matter of urgency. With some of these superbugs, like necrotizing fasciitis or 'flesh eating bacteria' as it is more commonly known, this type of infection can be even fatal.
What Is Necrotizing Fasciitis?
This MRSA superbug is resistant to drug methicillin and although there may not be any initial signs on the body, the person suffering is often in intense pain. As the disease progresses the body tissues become swollen, the skin becomes rapidly inflamed and blisters may also form. The patient usually also has a high fever and very often diarrhea and or vomiting as well.
It is essential that the person be taken to hospital, if they are not already there, as quickly as possible. Although the press refers to it as a 'flesh eating' bacteria, it doesn't actually eat the flesh, it just seems that way. The bug destroys body tissue by releasing too many toxins into the system causing gangrene. If allowed to continue the body can go into toxic shock, causing complete failure of some or all of the body's systems. If treatment isn't started immediately the person can end up losing limbs or even their life.
As the correct treatment needs to be given as soon as possible, identifying the 'bug' concerned is paramount. The main bug involved in necrotizing fasciitis is from the group A strep strain, albeit a more invasive type. A simple blood test, approved by the FDA in 2008 can give doctors a quick result. The BD GeneOhm StaphSR blood test enables doctors to differentiate between the strains which are resistant to methicillin and those which are not. This means that the doctors can not only identify the bug in around 2 hours as opposed to the 2 days it took previously, but also give the correct treatment as soon as possible.
What Is The Treatment?
For someone suffering with necrotizing fasciitis the treatment needs to be very aggressive. Apart from giving antibiotics like vancomycin and clindamycin, doctors may need to keep taking the person back into surgery to cut away the decaying tissue. The surgeons need to keep checking that they have got all the gangrenous tissue. If it is not all removed the bugs will continue to attack the person and they could have to have an arm or leg amputated. If treatment is delayed the person could even die. After the person has recovered they may need skin grafting or even reconstructive surgery, especially if the person's face was affected.
How Can I Prevent It?
There seems to be no known way of preventing the disease apart from maintaining proper hygiene generally. It is therefore very important to be especially scrupulous when dealing with cuts, abrasions and boils. This way you can avoid contact with the bug, but of course, even if you take precautions it doesn't mean you can't come in contact with the bug. Although this is a relatively rare illness, at the same time it seems to affect anybody and everybody.
If you have any cuts, boils or abrasions and also develop a fever, or have bouts of intense pain, it is essential that you consult a doctor immediately.
Even though this disease is rare, it spreads extremely rapidly so it is better to be safe than sorry.