Necrotizing fasciitis is a dangerous, fast-moving bacterial infection that kills human tissue, skin and fat. Streptococcus pyogenes—commonly known as “flesh-eating” bacteria—is one source of such an infection.
Flesh-eating bacteria typically gain entry through a cut or insect bite. According to Cigna, handling sea creatures, contact between an open wound and ocean water, or having a weak immune system are risk factors.
These infections cause skin discoloration, swelling, peeling, scaling and blisters around the injury. Moderate symptoms are flu-like, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM)—high fever, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. More severe symptoms include gangrene and a significant drop in blood pressure, which can lead to dizziness, confusion, fainting spells or shock.
Symptoms progress very rapidly. During the initial stage, unusually severe pain will develop around the injury, followed by flu-like symptoms, reports the NLM. As the infection worsens, gangrene may develop within four or five days. After about seven days, infection may spread to other areas of the body.
Complications from necrotizing fasciitis include scarring or disfigurement, or even death. Loss of function in an infected limb may occur if the infection is particularly severe, reports Cigna.
Early diagnosis, hospitalization and treatment with antibiotics or intravenous immunoglobulin are key. According to Cigna, surgery is frequently required to remove the dead tissue and stop the infection from spreading.