For 'Flesh-Eating' Bacteria, Your Agonizing Pain Is Their Pleasure https://t.co/nBjPaEULGc
The microbe Streptococcus pyogenes causes strep throat, but it's also responsible for a deadly "flesh-eating" disease called necrotizing fasciitis. During the initial stages of the flesh-destroying infection, the bacteria emit a toxin that causes excruciating pain. And this awful side effect is very useful to S. pyogenes; the chemical that causes the intense pain also hampers the host’s immune system and creates a more hospitable environment for the microbe to thrive and reproduce, scientists recently discovered. [27 Devastating Infectious Diseases]
But the chemical weapons that make S. pyogenes so formidable may also contain the means to defeat it. By investigating the bacteria's toxic arsenal, researchers may have also figured out how to turn that mechanism to a patient's own advantage, according to a new study, published online May 10 in the journal Cell.
Other types of bacteria can cause necrotizing fasciitis, including Clostridium, Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli, but S. pyogenes, also known as Group A strep, is the most common culprit, the study authors reported. Infection usually sets in after the bacteria enter the body through a break in the skin, and the disease attacks fascia — the connective tissue surrounding nerves, muscles, blood vessels and fat — and spreads rapidly. In its earliest stages, it brings pain that is "out of proportion" to the infection. In later stages, the infection has a mortality rate as high as 32 percent, the researchers wrote.
Terrible pain signals to an infected host that something is wrong. But in the case of S. pyogenes, its method for inflicting pain also benefits the bacteria by shielding it against host defenses that would normally attack microscopic invaders, the researchers discovered.