‘Flesh-eating’ bacterium cases hit record high in Japan
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‘Flesh-eating’ bacterium cases hit record high in Japan

Disease can take as little as 48 hours from infection to death in elderly

File image shows a chain of group A streptococcus. (Courtesy of National Institute of Infectious Diseases)
File image shows a chain of group A streptococcus. (Courtesy of National Institute of Infectious Diseases)

KYODO - Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, a potentially deadly disease caused by a "flesh-eating" bacterium, is spreading rapidly in Japan, with cases in the first half of this year already surpassing last year's record, a national infectious disease institute said Tuesday.

There have been 977 cases of the disease caused by the bacterium called streptococcus pyogenes which is often associated with strep throat but occasionally leads to limb necrosis and multiple organ failure.

The number of people infected has already topped last year's 941, the highest annual number of cases tallied since mandatory reporting began in 1999, according to the institute.

By prefecture, Tokyo reported the highest number of cases at 145. Infections of more virulent and contagious strains of the bacterium are increasingly being reported, particularly in the Kanto region centring on Tokyo, the institute said.

Ken Kikuchi, a professor specialising in infectious disease at Tokyo Women's Medical University, said foot wounds are particularly susceptible to streptococcal bacterial infection, and small injuries like blisters and athlete's foot can be entry points. It can take as little as 48 hours from infection to death in elderly patients, he said.

"High fever accompanied by delirium or rapid swelling of wounds are dangerous signs," and immediate medical attention should be sought, he added.

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