Unprecedented outbreak of 'flesh-eating' bacteria sweeps Japan

Japan's capital, Tokyo, has been most affected with 145 cases recorded in first six months of 2024

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This representational image shows a type of streptococchus bacteria atop the surface of a human white blood cell. — Unsplash 

A "flesh-eating" bacteria, a manifestation of the Strep A Bacteria, is spreading rapidly in Japan, with Tokyo being a hotspot, The Telegraph reported.

This year, the country has reported 977 cases of streptococcal toxis shock syndrome (STSS), surpassing the previous high of 941 cases in 2023.

While the Strep A Bacteria is common and often symptom-free, it can lead to various illnesses and, in severe cases, cause necrotising fasciitis, commonly known as “flesh-eating disease”.

This condition occurs when the bacteria invade deep tissue and muscle through cuts and wounds and it is currently spreading at record rates in Japan, according to data from the county's National Institute of Infectious Diseases this week.

Symptoms begin with a fever or muscle aches, followed by low blood pressure. This may lead to organ failure and septic shock within 48 hours.

This condition can be deadly without rapid treatment with antibiotics.

Japan's capital, Tokyo, has been the most affected region in the country. It has recorded 145 cases in the first six months of 2024 with most patient over 30 years old.

Meanwhile, the death rate has been recorded at around 30%.

"It is not unusual to see ‘surges’ in cases, [and] we have had such surges in the UK in the past,” said Jon Cohen, Emeritus Professor of Infectious Diseases at Brighton and Sussex Medical School. 

"Occasionally the explanation is a new strain of bacteria, but otherwise there is often not a really good explanation other than local contagion."