Beware of Flesh-Eating Bacteria That Can Be Life-threatening

You may have heard the term 'flesh-eating bacteria'. These bacteria can trigger dangerous infections in wounds that may appear minor, such as cuts or insect bites. If not treated immediately, these bacteria can cause disability or even death.

Even though they are called flesh-eating bacteria, they don't actually eat meat or muscle. However, these bacteria can release toxins that damage surrounding tissues, including skin, fat under the skin, and the thin tissue that wraps around organs or muscles (fascia).

Flesh-eating bacteria can enter the body through wounds. Unlike normal wounds, wounds that are infected with flesh-eating bacteria will deteriorate very quickly.

If not treated immediately, a flesh-eating bacterial infection can be fatal, causing the sufferer to lose organs or body tissues. This bacterial infection can also cause death.

Causes of InfectionFlesh-eating Bacteria

Flesh-eating bacterial infections can give rise to a rare condition called necrotizing fasciitis. This condition is a severe skin and tissue infection caused by flesh-eating bacteria. These bacteria can enter through gaps in wounds, ranging from stab wounds, bruises, burns, to insect bites.

Some types of bacteria that are classified as flesh-eating bacteria are:

  • Group A Streptococcus
  • Aeromonas hydrophila
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Escherichia coli (E. coli)
  • Bacteroides, Prevotella, Clostridium, and Klebsiella

Although dangerous, flesh-eating bacterial infections are quite rare. However, there are several medical conditions or diseases that can increase a person's risk of getting this dangerous bacterial infection, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Organ damage, such as liver cirrhosis and kidney failure
  • Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and peripheral vascular disease
  • Tuberculosis
  • Cancer
  • Weak immune system, for example due to HIV infection or malnutrition
  • Side effects of drugs, eg long-term corticosteroids or chemotherapy
  • Addiction to alcohol or use of drugs in the form of injections

Various Symptoms of Flesh-eating Bacterial Infection

Symptoms of infection due to flesh-eating bacteria are divided into 3 stages, namely the initial stage, the advanced stage, and the critical stage. Here is the explanation:

Early Symptoms

Initial symptoms of infection usually occur within 24 hours and include fever and severe pain in the injured body part. The pain felt by the patient can exceed the shape or size of the wound.

Advanced symptoms

Advanced symptoms usually occur within 3-4 days after the bacteria enter the body. At this stage, a flesh-eating bacterial infection can cause symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

In addition, the infected body part will appear red, swollen, and appear large dark patches that look like fluid-filled blisters (gangrene).

Critical symptoms

Critical symptoms appear within 4-5 days after the patient is infected with the bacteria. At this stage, the patient may experience a drastic drop in blood pressure (shock) due to toxins released by bacteria. If not treated immediately, the patient can experience decreased consciousness or coma, and even die.

Handling Infections due to Flesh-eating Bacteria

When you experience a wound, immediately treat the wound properly. If the wound is getting worse or doesn't heal, especially if some signs of a flesh-eating bacterial infection appear, seek medical attention immediately.

To diagnose necrotizing fasciitis, the doctor can perform a series of examinations consisting of a physical examination and supporting examinations, such as blood tests, blood cultures, X-rays, and CT scans.

After it is confirmed that you have a flesh-eating bacterial infection, your doctor will advise you to stay in the hospital and provide the following treatment:

Administration of drugs

To eradicate flesh-eating bacterial infections, doctors will usually give antibiotics in the form of injections through an IV. The type of antibiotic used will depend on the type of bacteria causing the infection.

In addition, doctors can also give painkillers to reduce pain. If the flesh-eating bacterial infection is severe enough or causes sepsis, your doctor may prescribe medications to treat shock, such as: epinephrine.


Surgery or surgery is also often necessary to remove damaged or dead tissue, as well as prevent and stop the spread of infection. In severe cases, doctors may need to amputate parts of the body that have been badly damaged.

Injury cure

While you are undergoing treatment at the hospital, the doctor will treat the wound so that the flesh-eating bacterial infection does not get worse.

In addition, the doctor will also recommend hyperbaric oxygen therapy to maintain healthy tissue and prevent further tissue damage. However, the effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in the treatment of this flesh-eating bacterial infection still needs to be investigated further.

There is no surefire way to prevent the flesh-eating bacteria that causes necrotizing fasciitis. However, the risk of this infection can be reduced by proper wound care.

If you have an open wound or wound that looks infected, such as pus, swelling, and pain, don't soak in swimming pools, hot tubs, lakes, rivers, and the ocean until the infection has cleared.

Flesh-eating bacterial infections can spread very quickly. Therefore, if you experience a wound accompanied by symptoms of a flesh-eating bacterial infection, immediately consult a doctor.

The sooner treatment is carried out, the more likely you are to recover and avoid serious complications from a flesh-eating bacterial infection.