Shocking images show how an 11-year-old girl was left with red raw skin covering 20% of her body after a snakebite triggered a flesh-eating bug
- The unidentified girl, from a rural part of Zambia, was nipped on the left arm
- She went to local healers for ‘traditional’ remedies before going to hospital
- Medics decided to transfer her to a city hospital 50miles (80km) away
- It took her six days to get there by which point she was in a ‘critical condition’
Doctors have released horrifying images of a girl whose skin was eaten away and left red raw after being bitten by a snake.
The unidentified 11-year-old, from a rural part of Zambia, was originally nipped on the arm and went to local healers for ‘traditional’ remedies.
She needed hospital treatment the next day when her left arm turned dark in colour and the ‘throbbing’ pain in her limb became worse, spreading to her chest.
Concerned medics decided to transfer her to a city hospital 50miles (80km) away, although, for reasons unknown, it took her six days to get there.
Doctors in Ndola, close to the Democratic Republic of Congo border, diagnosed her with necrotising fasciitis (NF) when she eventually arrived in a ‘critical condition’.
The unidentified 11-year-old, from a rural part of Zambia, was originally nipped on the arm and went to local healers for ‘traditional’ remedies (pictured 22 days after going to hospital, before having her wounds reconstructed)
Medics who treated her saw a ‘patchy brown’ rash across her body, alongside ‘foul-smelling’ skin blisters and visible bite marks in her left forearm.
They diagnosed it as NF and worked tirelessly to stop the flesh-eating bug from taking hold, amid fears it would kill her or leave her needing an amputation.
NF, more commonly known as ‘flesh-eating disease’, is a rare but extremely vicious bacterial infection. The girl needed skin grafts to 20 per cent of her body.
As well as causing NF, the snakebite led to compartment syndrome – restricted blood flow to certain bodily parts caused by swelling or bleeding.
And she developed mediastinitis – swelling in the area between the lungs. The doctors who treated her said it has a high mortality rate.
Eventually she fully recovered, her wounds were grafted and she was discharged from hospital, the doctors wrote in SAGE Open Medical Case Reports.
It took more than three weeks before she was able to have her wounds reconstructed through multiple skin grafts covering 20 per cent of her body that were attached to her body through a mesh structure (pictured five days after wound reconstruction)
NECROTISING FASCIITIS: THE VICIOUS FLESH-EATING BACTERIA
Necrotising fasciitis, more commonly known as ‘flesh-eating disease’, is a rare but extremely vicious bacterial infection. ‘Necrotising’ refers to something that causes body tissue to die, and the infection can destroy skin, muscles and fat.
The disease develops when the bacteria enters the body, often through a minor cut or scrape. As the bacteria multiply, they release toxins that kill tissue and cut off blood flow to the area.
Because it is so virulent, the bacteria spreads rapidly throughout the body.
Symptoms include small, red lumps or bumps on the skin, rapidly-spreading bruising, sweating, chills, fever and nausea. Organ failure and shock are also common complications.
Sufferers must be treated immediately to prevent death, and are usually given powerful antibiotics and surgery to remove dead tissue. Amputation can become necessary if the disease spreads through an arm or leg.
Patients may undergo skin grafts after the infection has cleared up, to help the healing process or for aesthetic reasons.
There are 500 to 1,500 cases reported a year, but 20 to 25 percent of victims die.
Writing in the journal, Chihena Hansini Banda and Chandwa N’gambi, who treated the girl, claimed it is the first time a snakebite has caused mediastinitis, saying that ‘no previous reports’ have been published.
The girl was bitten while playing at a farm. It is unsure what type of snake sunk its teeth into her, or whether she lived at the farm.
The medics also did not reveal what kind of traditional medicine the girl was initially given but said it was applied directly to the wound.
Medics chose to transfer her to the Arthur Davison Children’s Hospital because they feared she had blood poisoning and needed specialist care.
Banda and N’gambi described the girl as being ‘ill-looking’, with a high body temperature, an abnormally fast heart rate and rapid breathing.
They decided to begin cutting away her damaged tissue and said she needed an operation to save her limbs from being lost – called a fasciectomy.
Medics then drained multiple pus-filled blisters in her arm, hand and chest before giving her painkillers and high-dose antibiotics.
Her parents were told doctors may have to amputate if she did not show signs of recovery two days after the operation to cut away her rotting flesh.
Defying the odds, she overcame her fever, her muscles recovered and only a few pockets of pus were found when they assessed her again.
Surgeons removed damaged tissue every two days. However, she developed mediastinitis six days after originally entering hospital.
It took more than three weeks before she was able to have her wounds reconstructed through multiple skin grafts covering 20 per cent of her body that were attached to her body through a mesh structure.