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Tammy A. Branom

Putting a bug in your... body!

May 27, 2013 | Comment icon 0 comments

Image Credit: US Navy
[!gad]With all the reported cases of necrotizing fasciitis in the media and conspiracy theories on the rise surrounding the misnomer "flesh eating disease," I decided it was time to take a deeper look into this. What I found and what the information led me into is not just interesting, but it is beset with a darker truth that affects each and every human on earth from now through our generations to come.

To begin with, I'd read in forums that flesh eating disease was a government-backed experiment (or plural) gone awry, and the CDC wasn't kidding about a zombie apocalypse. One example is here: ( Of course, there was the internet rumor that flesh eating disease was found in Costa Rican bananas.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Necrotizing fasciitis was not created by anyone, nor was the bacteria.

The earliest known report of necrotizing fasciitis dates back to Hippocrates' description of a complication of cellulitis in the 5th century B.C. "...The erysipelas would quickly spread widely in all directions. Flesh, sinews and bones fell away in large quantities...Fever was sometimes present and sometimes absent...There were many deaths. The course of the disease was the same to whatever part of the body it spread..." (

In 1871, during the American Civil War, Joseph Jones observed and studied over 2,600 cases of the disease. As it turns out, war-torn areas and military hospitals historically have the worst outbreaks. Although Hippocrates' report was from ancient Greece, I have never read an article about necrotizing fasciitis outbreaks in any other country other than America. So, I had to wonder. Had flesh eating disease become an American disease? If not, was this country the leader? Upon investigation, the CDC reports that:

"About 9,000-11,500 cases of invasive GAS (group A streptococcal) disease occur each year in the United States, resulting in 1,000-1,800 deaths annually. STSS (Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome) and necrotizing fasciitis each comprise an average of about 6%-7% of these invasive cases." (

Those percentages seem small considering the population of the United States. The CDC continues with: "About 20% of patients with necrotizing fasciitis and more than half with STSS die."

So, what about necrotizing fasciitis in the rest of the world? I continued to search for the proof and finally found it, albeit on Yahoo Answers:

"Necrotizing Fasciitis is an opportunistic infection. It can be acquired by getting a puncture wound with anything that has one of the types of bacteria that cause necrotizing fasciitis. It affects anyone and everyone and does not discriminate between women children and men. The causative bacteria are found all over the world, but are more common in developing/3rd world countries." (

Although the media swirls around American numbers, necrotizing fasciitis is definitely not strictly an American disease. Further proof came as I also read about marine flesh eating bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus, associated to Hong Kong.

"It is naturally present in warm seawater and is not linked to pollution, although some studies have found higher numbers of this bacteria in tar balls (e.g. washed up tar balls from the Deep-water Horizon Oil spill), which attract many kinds of bacteria. It likes brackish (mixed fresh and seawater) and so is more common in estuaries and near river mouths. Because it likes warm water, it is more common in the summer months. Infection occurs through open wounds or through eating raw or undercooked shellfish or fish, but is not transmissible between persons." (

Note that Vibrio vulnificus infections happen worldwide, including the U.S., Japan, and Southern Europe. That article ends with a frightening environmental implication associated to the climate change.

"As V. vulnificus is so fond of warm brackish water, consider this: climate change is a leading cause of warming seas around the world, as well as of increased freshwater run-off from more erratic and heavier rain storms caused by the higher evaporation of seawater. This means that one of the effects of climate change could be an increase in infections, because the ideal conditions for V. vulnificus are becoming more widespread."

I thought about Aimee Copeland. Her case of necrotizing fasciitis came from a wound she received after a fall from a zip line into The Little Tallapoosa River in Georgia. Warm water.

Only bacterial infection is the similar key here, not even the same bacteria as the Hong Kong necrotizing fasciitis, but bacteria in water all the same. So, why do these bacteria cause extreme conditions? Why do they become resistant to antibiotics? All medical sites state one of the main causes is a compromised immune system, such as with diabetes or cancer. Be that as it may, I wonder if there is more to it.

First of all, antibiotics kill bad AND good bacteria when taken. Over the years, doctors have dispensed so much of sulfa-drugs, that people are rarely given penicillin or any form of it. It simply no longer works for most people. I know this to be fact because the drug of choice for me recently was Tetracycline. But, I am that "one in a million" who is allergic to Tetracycline and had to be prescribed Amoxcillin—but only after the doctor read my entire history and discussed my reactions so he could be happy that I am indeed allergic. Then he explained why with my above second and third sentences.

Is it possible that we are over-anti-bacterializing ourselves? Anti-bacterial soaps and sprays are the norm now. Even anti-bacterial hand sanitizers are everywhere. Somehow I can't believe all the bacteria are wiped away with that nasty, sticky goo. Most stores now have wipes available to clean the handle of the cart before use.

How much is too much? I remember as a child being told that taking too many pills won't do you any better. You shouldn't over-medicate yourself. The extra either does absolutely no good or it can cause sickness. Can the same be said for over-protection of something that is both good and bad? Can all the anti-bacterial products be causing our immune systems to "relax?" Yes. (

And, what of weakened immune systems? Type 2 diabetes is typically caused from being overweight and under exercised. And why are people like that? We can blame it on technology which lets us lead lazier lives. In the past, people would move around during work, technology now keeps many sitting at a computer for 8 hours, 5 days a week. Some employers understand this and let their employees get exercise, but there are many who don't. Actually, leaving your desk or cubicle could result in your employer thinking you are away from your desk too much and you could be laid off or fired if you don't comply with your daily lockdown. There's also lifestyle. Think back to the 60's and the hippie movement. Those people wanted better, less back-breaking lives for themselves and their children as opposed to the lives their parents and grandparents had to endure. So, they ultimately found ways to make life easier for us all. But, at what cost? Could this be an example of "too much of a good thing?"

What about our atmosphere? Could it also be attributing to our weakened immune systems? It is a fact that UV light helps our immune system, but it is the more publicized fact that TOO MUCH UV radiation does indeed weaken the immune system and leave us all susceptible to skin cancer, especially those with light skin. ( With the ozone layer still thinning and holes popping up here and there, could any amount of sunshine be too much? ( Reports in the 1990's said UV reduced immunization rates and increased cell tolerance. Now, that seems to have changed. The unknown today is tomorrow's headline.

Just what is happening to us? What is happening to our environment?

What is happening is a chain of events that we humans began executing to make ourselves healthier. No BP. No government conspiracy. No aliens. Prior to 1977, the FDA considered using antibiotics in animal feed for growth promotion as a public health threat. In that year, that agency withdrew its approval for such drugs in animal products because it was not shown to be safe for people. However, in December 2011, the FDA decided that prohibiting antibiotic use in animal feed as outdated. Instead, they asked pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily reduce antibiotic sales for use in animal feed.

Of course, that didn't happen. Sales increased and continue to rise. Penicillins and tetracyclines sold for animal use increased from 11.5 million pounds in 2009 to 14.4 million pounds in 2011. Incidentally, when animals consume antibiotics, they gain weight more quickly, increasing profit. But, antibiotics also prevent infection, allowing more animals could be kept in more crowded spaces with reduced risk of infectious disease. This led to the farming "mills" of today. It is a fact that when animals are regularly fed antibiotics, they develop resistance to antibiotics. Thus, antibiotic-resistance bacteria evolved. And, because we eat the meat of these animals and the antibiotics we feed them are similar or the same as those for humans, the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains in humans was inevitable.

Poultry often carry at least one bacterial strain and it is now very likely that the meat contains at least one antibiotic-resistant strain.

In 1993, the European Union took a stance and banned the use of anibiotics in livestock. The result was a decrease in antibiotic resistance in both livestock and humans. In March 2012, a Federal judge ordered the FDA to reverse its approval and withdraw animal products containing antibiotics. The FDA appealed. Hence, this leaves us with deadly bacteria, such as MRSA, that do not respond to any know antibiotics which were once life-saving. Of growing concern among the medical society is the increase of MRSA, which can lead to necrotizing fasciitis, although it is still considered to be extremely rare for NF to develop from MRSA. "Antibiotic resistance has existed since before we even used antibiotics and will only get worse the more we train the organisms to grow in the presence of antibiotics. These genes for resistance aren't "new", but not all bacteria carry them because there is an energy cost associated with production of proteins, and if it doesn't benefit their survival, those bacterial strains wasting energy will become less common. If we constantly create a selective pressure on bacteria to maintain resistance genes, we are going to increase the proportion of bacteria that carry resistance, and thus the resistant organisms we are exposed to. Then, as we have to use more and more powerful antibiotics to address resistance, we create additional selective pressure on the organisms to carry more and better resistance genes (not all beta-lactamases are created equal), and as they mutate to become more effective, those effective resistance strains will eventually mutate into bacteria for which we have no therapeutic option. These are already starting to emerge as those who followed reports of the MDR-klebs outbreak at NIH know." (

Worse yet is CRE, Carbapenem-Resistant Enterbacteriaceae. CRE is sometimes impossible to treat since carbapenem is the last resort drug for certain bacterial infections. Enterbacteriaceae is a bacteria that causes infections of the respiratory, intestinal and urinary tracts. Bacterial resistance to carbapenem has had a four-fold increase in the last ten years and when resistance to carbapenem occurs, there are no other antibiotics to use. The mortality rate is as high as 50% for CRE patients. Furthermore, CRE is spreading due to affected patients transitioning from a hospital to short or long-term facilities and contaminating several institutions, including nursing homes.

Estimates from the CDC state that 92% of CRE occurs in health care facilities during hospitalization, prompting the CDC to develop prevention strategies and guidelines for healthcare professionals and institutions. These include personnel education, proper use of devices associated to CRE, patient contact precautions, and hand hygiene with alcohol-based hand rubs. Regrettably, as I suggested earlier with bacterial soaps, there is evidence of new CRE bacteria that are resistant or alcohol. The following article mentions strains that survive in 75% alcohol. (

Even the current antibiotics in development offer no hope for treatment of CRE infections. This will impact the kinds of surgeries and treatments that can be offered in patients with weak immune systems, such as organ transplants and chemotherapy. With cancer ever present, this is a critical issue. Also, CRE is not limited to the U.S. just like any antibiotic resistant bacteria that can cause necrotizing faciitis as I pointed out with the marine version of "flesh-eating disease," Vibrio vulnificus, associated to Hong Kong.

Since beef and poultry are unsafe because of antibiotics, where does this leave seafood? At least 80% of seafood Americans eat is imported from overseas; from China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Although the seafood does not show any signs of antibiotic use, toxic chemicals like cholramphenicol, nitrofurans, and malchite green do show up in tests. These chemicals are so toxic, they are banned in all food. Continued consumption could result in anemia, cancer, and birth defects.

What to do? Should we all become vegetarian? Reports of e-coli contaminated vegetables show up almost monthly. If you contract e-coli, you could end up in a hospital. I've already discussed the possibilities involved with hospitalization. That in and of itself can be more dangerous than the e-coli.

Nevertheless, there is something far more dangerous and scary. What is the one thing all these things have in common? Humans, cattle, chickens, seafood, and even vegetables need one very vital ingredient for survival.


Most people believe drinking filtered water or bottled water is safe. Water flushes toxins from the body and supplies us with minerals, right?

Drinking water comes from either surface water such as rivers and lakes or from underground wells, springs, or deep aquifiers. Sadly, water contamination has permeated every water source on the planet, including the deep aqufiers that supply 40 percent of America's water supply. Although miniscule, hormones, antibiotics, and other drugs are now present in these deepest of water supplies. Moreover, most bottled water companies simply use common tap water.

And how did the contamination get there? Human waste. People consume pills, but the medications are not entirely absorbed by their bodies. What isn't absorbed is passed through the body and flushed down the toilet. Treated wastewater is discharged into reservoirs, rivers, or lakes. Then, the water is piped back to a water treatment plant to be pushed back to consumers. Unfortunately, treatments do not remove drug residue, so the pharmaceutical-ridden water is returned to the citizens.

Water providers do not disclose pharmaceutical screenings. Most water treatments do not remove drug residue at all.

Many city water supplies contain include toxic metals arsenic and lead. Since they are difficult and costly to remove, they are simply left there. Cities often add aluminum compounds, copper, fluoride, and chlorine to water supplies for make the water safer for people. These chemicals are extremely toxic to humans. Fluoride has now been shown to NOT reduce tooth decay and some studies report more tooth decay in fluoridated areas. And chlorine is highly toxic to humans and animals. Chlorination of drinking water has been linked to the rise of heart disease and may also contribute to cancer. Chlorine can also make some pharmaceuticals more toxic.

Humans are not the only source of water contamination by waste. Cattle are given ear implants for a slow release of steroids to bulk them up. Not all of the steroids are absorbed and are passed through the animals. Waterways downstream of cattle farms revealed elevated steroid levels that adversly affected the fish. Pets are now treated with many of the same drugs as humans, and their waste seeps into the ground, allowing miniscule amounts to trickle into underground water supplies.

These pharmaceuticals in the water have been shown to affect human embryonic kidney cells, human blood cells, and human breast cancer cells. Wildlife are also damaged. From earthworms to fish, the effects are widespread. Unlike pollution, pharmaceuticals were designed to act on the human body. Small amounts delivered continuously over extended periods of time can create allergies and even compromise immune systems. Imagine what a patient receiving chemotherapy passes into the water supply.

I fear our water will soon be as dangerous as the meats we consume. Water may soon pass to us more antibiotic-resistant bacteria of which we will have no solution.

And, of all things, a group of researchers from the University of Oxford may have engineered a protein from flesh-eating bacteria that could be used to detect cancer cells. (

Although this sounds like a good thing from the bad, how safe will it be? What disastrous, unknown effects will this cause?

Necrotizing facitiis is worldwide. Normal bacteria can go bad from any number of things under the right mix of conditions. Our ozone layer is depleting which can cause human immune systems to weaken. Producing more meat to feed the ever-growing population created a pathway to an onslaught of frightening diseases and death. Our seafood and vegetables are contaminated. To top it off, all of the world's water is slowly becoming more and more poisonous as well. Once life saving drugs are becoming our epitaph.

Can we stop this? Can we save ourselves and future generations? Can we escape the clutches we have so embraced?

In conclusion, with our strides to make our world safer and less toilsome, we humans have created our own immenent disaster. Movies play out apocalyptic disasters from balls of flame from the sky. The news blasts us with terrorism. Certain scientists have warned of alien invasion from our signals into space. Proclamations of the coming end of the world from ancient texts are hopefully over for a while. But, with all of these possibilities, very few think of what we have done to ourselves. We are indeed our own worst enemy, terrorizing our own environment and our bodies. We can easily be our OWN destruction. No conspiracy, exploding comets, glowing meteorites, or shiny spacecraft required.

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