A new report from researchers at the Cooper University Hospital in New Jersey suggests that necrotizing fasciitis may no longer be as rare as previously assumed, no thanks to climate change and global warming.
Necrotizing fasciitis (NF) is a rapid-spreading, life-threatening bacterial disease that destroys the fascia, the tissue under the skin surrounding muscles, fats, and blood vessels. It is caused by a species of bacteria known as Group A streptococcus, also called “flesh-eating bacteria”, and vibrio vulnificus. These bacteria thrive in warm salt and brackish waters, alternatively entering the body through open wounds or oral ingestion.
Recent statistics show that necrotizing fasciitis affects about 1 in every 250,000 people in the United States per year. In some other parts of the world where the climate is warmer, it may affect as much as 1 in every 100,000 per year. NF has been termed a “very rare” disease due to these low frequencies of occurrence, but global warming may be causing the increase.
This recent report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that those statistics may be on the verge of going higher as world waters are getting warmer. Flesh-eating bacteria species (especially Vibrio) thrive in unusually warm waters, and according to the report from the CUH, the few cases of necrotizing fasciitis studied have mostly arisen from the Southeastern U.S coast, the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico.
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