Good news everyone!
Group A streptococcus is a bacterium that causes many illnesses from strep throat to scarlet fever. The Group A streptococcus bacterium is able to cause so many diseases and dodge the bodies immune responses because of certain factors. One is that it has M proteins on its surface, which give it acid and heat resistance, an advanced ability to attach to its host and resist phagocytosis (being engulfed by white blood cells). It is chemically similar to the body’s connective tissue meaning it can go unrecognized by the body thus avoiding phagocytosis. Another factor is that it can produce three types of exotoxins, such as streptokinase – a toxin that digests blood clots, allowing the bacteria to invade the body – allowing it to cause numerous diseases. One of the most shocking of the diseases it causes is Necrotising Fasciitis.
If Group A streptococcus manages to pass through the throat lining or an opening in the skin then you have most probably contracted Necrotizing Fasciitis and practically zero chance of getting out unaffected. There are two types of Necrotizing Fasciitis:
- Type 1 – polymicrobial; the infection consists of more than just one type of bacteria
- Type 2 – monomicrobial; the infection consists of only one type of bacteria, this is the most common type of the disease
Group A streptococcus is only one of many bacteria that cause Necrotizing Fasciitis but is the main cause of type 2 infections.
At first you start off with minor symptoms that you would put down to either an allergy or a normal common flu, maybe inflammation/ irritation at the area of infection meaning it is easy for the doctor to misdiagnose the patient.
If your lucky the doctor will have heard of the disease and has a suspicion that you are infected, he will carry out several tests on factors such as your haemoglobin, liver proteins and white blood cell count. Once it has been confirmed that you are infected, the doctor will perform surgery and aggressively remove the infected tissue to stop the spreading, however it is likely you will be severely disfigured.
If you’re unlucky then you’ll carry on normally until it becomes too painful or you end up passing out and the doctor performs exploratory surgery and discover most of your tissue gone. You will not get out of this unchanged; disfigured or dead (to put it bluntly). It is sad to know that this disease only has around a 30% survival rate.
It’s noteworthy that the bacterium does not physically eat your tissue but releases exotoxins. One of the toxins known as a Superantigen causes some T-Cells to activate which in turn causes an overproduction of cytokines (proteins used for cell signaling) and possibly Toxic Shock Syndrome – a whole other thing on its own.
Do not fret however as it is unlikely that it will infect people with a generally healthy life style. 70% of cases occur in those with health problems such as diabetes, alcoholism and drug use. A way to make sure that you don’t get infected is to always clean cuts thoroughly.
So if you don’t have enough to worry about already such as work, paying the bills and having to listen to a Connor Maynard song then feel free to concern yourself with flesh eating bacteria.
Christian Tuckwell-Smith – Farnsworth
Bill Bryson: A Short History of Nearly Everything