Literatus: The bloody scourge

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012


“BLOOD smelled much the same, whatever the source,” wrote David Hewson in his first book, The Seventh Sacrament (2007).

The Group-A Streptococci (chainlike circles) are known among laboratory scientists for its unique ability to burst the red blood cells. And to this bloody scourges Streptococcus pyogenes belongs.

If you had a strep throat or sore throat recently, Pyogenes caused that. It is a mild infection in the leagues of impetigo, erysipelas, and cellulitis.

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But Pyogenes can be life-threatening when it causes “necrotizing fasciitis,” a rare infection of the deeper layers of the skin. It is commonly known as “flesh-eating disease” for the obvious reason that the affected tissues simply turn violet (blisters may appear afterwards) and then die away. As high as 73 percent of patients with this disease die if left untreated.

It is not that Pyogenes “eats” the tissues for meals. But that it releases a powerful toxin known as a “superantigen” that brings destruction to the skin and muscle. The toxin can activate our immune cells called “T-cells” in such a manner that they do not discriminate, which tissues not to attack, resulting to unselective attacks even of healthy tissues.

The first move in the treatment of necrotizing fasciitis is surgery in order to remove the infected tissue. That keeps the disease from spreading to more healthy tissues.

Once the presence of the bacteria gets confirmed through microscopic evaluation of the tissue samples, intensive antibiotic treatment begins intravenously.

Other bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Vibrio vulnificus, Clostridium perfringens, and Bacteroides fragilis are also known to cause necrotizing fasciitis.

Most strains of Pyogenes fortunately remain sensitive to penicillin most of the time.

However certain strains have already appeared to have resistance to macrolide, tetracycline, and clindamycin antibiotics.

Bestselling but controversial novelist Dan Brown wrote in 2009 book, The Lost Symbol: “Only through the death experience could man fully understand his life experience.

Only through the realization that his days on earth were finite could he grasp the importance of living those days with honor, integrity, and service to his fellow man.”

One more thing, please look for my book (Got 2 Go!) on life’s calling and death at the Catholic Trade Center Cebu and the Sto. Rosario Church Charismatic Book Center (basement). If you can email me a copy of this column, I will send you a five percent rebate on my books that you bought.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 30, 2012.

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