John D. Chovan, James R. Cacchillo
Infectious Diseases, Risk Factors, Mortality
Bacterial Infections and Mycoses | Medical Pathology | Nursing
Necrotizing fasciitis, often referred to as the “flesh-eating disease”, is a rare bacterial infection with an extremely high mortality rate with symptoms that begin subtle but can quickly ravish the human body.1 While the prevalence of this disease is relatively low, evidence of this disease can be traced back as far as the 5th century BC where it was initially described by Hippocrates.2 It wasn’t until 1952 however that Dr. Bob Wilson termed the disease “necrotizing fasciitis”.3 The rapid progression of this disease and the acute deterioration it causes in a patient is extremely intriguing. This “flesh-eating disease” can present as an unassuming reddened area and manifest into a serious life threatening condition with a mortality rate close to 70% in a matter of hours if not properly identified and treated.4 The underlying bacteria that cause necrotizing fasciitis in an individual can consume or “eat” up to one inch of flesh every hour.5 Necrotizing fasciitis is reported in 4.3 infections for every 100,000 people worldwide.6 The overall prevalence of necrotizing fasciitis in the United States is also relatively low, with only 650-800 cases being reported each year.1 The disease has been reported higher in males versus females (2.6:1) and also seen more often in adults versus children.7 Prevalence of this disease however has increased nearly five fold over the past few decades which can most likely be related to a growing older population with increased comorbidities and predisposing risk factors, the most common of which being diabetes mellitus. Other risk factors predisposing an individual to necrotizing fasciitis are immune deficiencies such as AIDS, malignancies and complement C4 deficiency. Intravenous drug users and individuals with dermatological compromises such as psoriasis and skin breakdown are also at increased risk.7
Neukam, John, "Necrotizing Fasciitis: The “flesh eating” disease" (2014). Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Student Scholarship. 35.