Deadly flesh-eating bacteria thrive on East Coast as climate warms, research shows


Market Desk (nature & science): A flesh eating bacteria that kills roughly 20% of its victims and lives in coastal waters are expanding. Its working way up the East Coast at about 30 miles per year.

While still rare, infections from Vibrio vulnificus have increased 8 fold between 1988 and 2018 as climate change has warmed where the bacteria live, a paper published Thursday found.

The bacterial infection, which eats away at the flesh and sometimes requires amputation to stop it, used to occur mostly in salty waters along shores and inlets from Texas to Florida. Now cases are showing up as far north as Massachusettes.

Elizabeth Archer, co-author of the paper published in Scientific Reports, spoke to the media about how deadly the bacteria can be. She said, ‘Vibrio vulnicus is considered to be the deadliest of the Vibrio pathogens. All you need is a small puncture on the skin or an insect bite. Anyone can even get infected by coming into contact with bacteria in sea water.

However, it can quickly spread throughout the body and cause necrotizing fasciitis, she added. Antibiotic treatment may be needed to prevent spread to the bloodstream or even surgical removal of the tissue.

In necrotizing fasciitis, the decay starts in the soft tissue beneath the tendon and gradually spreads to the adjacent muscles. In order to save the affected patient, many times the effected organ has to be removed quickly.

According to CDC, 1 in 5 people infected with this bacteria die. Many times the patient dies after a day or two of illness. However, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are at greater risk of infection with those flesh-eating bacteria.


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