Necrotizing fasciitis cure? Century-old mystery of flesh-eating bacteria SOLVED

Finding a way to treat flesh-eating bacteria has been a 100-year-old mystery.

But researchers may have discovered a way to cure the infectious disease, also called necrotizing fasciitis.

In a study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists believe they are a step closer to combating the type of the flesh-eating disease caused by Group A Streptococcus bacteria.

“Group A streptococcus infections are pretty widespread,” said Muthiah Kumaraswami, a study author and infectious diseases researcher at the Houston Methodist Research Institute.

“Not only do they cause several million cases of strep throat every year, but also can lead to more severe infections, such as flesh-eating disease and acute rheumatic heart disease.

"If you don't treat strep throat in children, for instance, recurring infections can lead to those more serious diseases and are very difficult to treat.

“We don't have a vaccine, so basic research is geared toward finding targets for vaccine development."

The researchers focused on developing a potential vaccine or antibiotic to fight Group A Streptococcus.

They aimed to find a way to reduce severity of the infection or clear it up faster.

"Researchers have known for more than 100 years that Group A strep uses the toxin SpeB and that it is crucial to disease development," said Kumaraswami.

“We did not know, however, what signals the timely production of SpeB by Group A streptococcus. 

“Now that we have discovered how Group A strep bacteria communicate with each other to coordinate the production of this toxin, we can target the signalling pathway for vaccine and antimicrobial development."

Researchers will next develop antibodies - a protein used by the immune system - to block toxin production and reduce disease severity.

Flesh-eating bacterial infections start in the tissues just below the skin.

The term ’flesh-eating’ is because the bacterial infection produces toxins which destroy tissues such as muscle, skin and fat.

The infection can prove deadly if it spreads very rapidly.