‘Flesh-eating’ bacterium (STSS) is rapidly spreading across Japan

A dangerous bacterial infection called streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS) is rapidly spreading across Japan, causing concern among health officials. This disease, triggered by group A streptococcus bacteria that cause tissue necrosis, has a mortality rate of up to 30%.

Image Source: : US National institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

In Tokyo, there has been a significant increase in cases, reaching 88 and contributing to a national total of 517 cases, as reported by The Japan Times. This figure represents over 50% of the cases reported in 2023, marking a concerning trend.

Since its emergence in 1992, Japan has typically seen an annual average of 100-200 STSS cases. However, there has been a sharp rise in numbers since 2018, reaching unprecedented levels.

Health authorities in Japan are urging people to seek immediate medical help if they experience symptoms like limb pain, swelling, or fever, as these could be signs of STSS. Health Minister Keizo Takemi has stressed the importance of preventive measures, such as frequent hand washing and good cough hygiene, to reduce the spread of the infection.

Image Source: : AFP

The National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Japan has expressed concerns about the lack of understanding regarding the sudden and severe outbreaks of streptococcus, highlighting many unknown aspects of the underlying mechanisms.

Group A streptococcus is usually harmless and resides in the throat and skin, causing minor infections like scarlet fever and impetigo. These infections typically respond well to antibiotics. However, in severe cases like STSS, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream, causing organ damage, coma, confusion, and potentially death.

According to Asahi Shimbum, between July and December 2023, 65 individuals under 50 were diagnosed with STSS, with twenty-one fatalities reported.