Record number of flesh-eating bacterium cases in Japan

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11th June 2024 – (Tokyo) Japan is witnessing a concerning surge in cases of streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, a potentially fatal illness caused by a “flesh-eating” bacterium. According to local media reports on Tuesday, the number of confirmed cases in the first half of this year has already exceeded the record set last year.

The bacterium responsible for the disease, known as streptococcus pyogenes, is commonly associated with strep throat but can occasionally lead to limb necrosis and multiple organ failure. The national infectious disease institute reported a total of 977 confirmed cases, surpassing last year’s highest annual count of 941 since mandatory reporting began in 1999.

Among the regions affected, Tokyo recorded the highest number of cases, reaching 145. Alarming reports indicate an increase in infections caused by more virulent and contagious strains of the bacterium, particularly in the Kanto region centred around Tokyo.

Ken Kikuchi, an infectious disease specialist at Tokyo Women’s Medical University, emphasised the vulnerability of foot wounds to streptococcal bacterial infection. Even small injuries such as blisters and athlete’s foot can serve as entry points for the bacterium. In elderly patients, the infection can progress rapidly, leading to death within as little as 48 hours from the onset of symptoms.

Kikuchi warned that high fever accompanied by delirium or rapid swelling of wounds are dangerous signs that should not be ignored. Immediate medical attention is crucial in order to prevent severe complications.