In Brief

Man Has 25% of His Skin Removed to Treat 'Flesh-Eating' Infection

An illustration of Streptococcus pyogenes, a type of group A Streptococcus bacteria. The microbe can cause necrotizing fasciitis, also known as "flesh-eating" disease.
An illustration of Streptococcus pyogenes, a type of group A Streptococcus bacteria. The microbe can cause necrotizing fasciitis, also known as "flesh-eating" disease. (Image credit: CDC/ Sarah Bailey Cutchin)

UPDATE: David Ireland, who contracted a serious infection with flesh-eating bacteria, has died, according to his family. "He fought very hard against this disease and all of us will miss him dearly," David's brother, Daniel Ireland, wrote on the family's GoFundMe page on Thursday, Aug. 29. Live Science published this article (below) on Aug. 27.

A man in Florida has lost 25% of his skin after developing a life-threatening infection with flesh-eating bacteria, according to news reports.

The 50-year-old-man, David Ireland, first showed signs of illness on Aug. 16, when he developed flu-like symptoms, including aches and fever, according to Fox News. His symptoms quickly worsened, and by Aug. 20, he was in extreme pain and was rushed to the emergency room.

"He was fine one minute and sick the next," Jody Ireland, David's wife, told Fox News.

David Ireland was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, more commonly known as "flesh-eating" bacteria, which can destroy skin and muscle tissue. He is now in critical condition and has undergone three surgeries that removed about 25% of his skin, from his ankle to his torso, according to Newsweek.

Necrotizing fasciitis is a serious infection that spreads quickly in the body and can result in the loss of limbs and even death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Several types of bacteria can cause necrotizing fasciitis, but the most common cause is a bacterium called group A Streptococcus, or group A strep. It's this bacterium that's causing Ireland's infection, his family said.

Most commonly, people get necrotizing fasciitis when the bacteria enter the body through breaks in the skin, including cuts, scrapes, burns and surgical wounds, the CDC said.

In Ireland's case, the bacteria may have entered his body through an open wound on his leg, Fox News reported. He also has diabetes, which puts him at greater risk for developing this infection.

Still, necrotizing fasciitis is rare, with about about 4 cases per 100,000 people occurring each year in the United States, Live Science previously reported.

Ireland's family has created a GoFundMe page to help cover his medical expenses. He is still in the intensive care unit and is expected to have another operation soon.

"David is still in a life-threatening situation, but there are some small victories every day," Jody Ireland wrote on the GoFund Me page. "My life isn't the same without him, so really praying for a miracle."

 Originally published on Live Science. 

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.