US woman’s hands, legs consumed by flesh-eating bacteria

May 20th, 2012 - 6:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, May 20 (IANS) Both hands and the remaining foot of a 24-year-old American woman had to be amputated after they were infected by a flesh-eating bacterial infection called Necrotizing fasciitis.

Aimee Copeland from Georgia state is fighting a major battle as her limbs were amputated Saturday, the Daily Mail reported.

Surgeons had previously amputated the woman’s left leg at the hip.

When Copeland learned she would lose her hands and remaining foot, she responded by saying: “Let’s do this.”

The woman contracted the bacteria after an accident. She suffered a deep gash in her leg May 1 after falling from a homemade rope-line over a river in Georgia, and the bacteria took hold in the wound.

Doctors in Carrollton closed the wound with nearly two dozen staples but it became infected within days. On May 4, she was diagnosed with the infection and flown 300 km to Augusta for treatment by specialists.

Doctors hoped they would be able to save her remaining foot after two days of treatment using a hyperbaric chamber, in which patients breathe pure oxygen to boost white blood cells and accelerate healing.

But they later learned they would have to amputate that as well as her fingers.

The flesh-eating bacteria - Aeromonas hydrophila - emit toxins that cut off blood flow to parts of the body. The affliction can destroy muscle, fat and skin tissue.

She has been unable to speak because of a breathing tube in her throat. Her parents said they have learned to read lips and are now able to communicate with their daughter.

Copeland is also suffering from kidney failure and other organ damage caused by the infection.

Necrotizing fasciitis is a rare but extremely vicious bacterial infection. “Necrotizing” refers to something that causes body tissue to die.

The disease develops when the bacteria enters the body, often through a minor cut or scrape. As the bacteria multiply, they release toxins that kill tissue and cut off blood flow to the area.

Symptoms include small, red lumps or bumps on the skin, rapidly-spreading bruising, sweating, chills, fever and nausea. Organ failure and shock are common complications.

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