A Florida man nearly lost his leg from a rare flesh-eating bacterial infection that developed after he was bitten by a human while breaking up a family brawl, according to a report by NBC News.
The man, Donnie Adams, a 53-year-old funeral assistant from the Tampa suburb of Riverview, sought care in mid-February for a painful swelling on this bitten thigh. He told doctors he had gotten the bite while trying to break up a physical fight between two family members. He was bitten in the process of pulling the pair away from each other.
He reportedly declined to say what sparked the brawl or which family member actually bit him. But doctors believed his story after seeing the wound.
“When I saw him in the hospital, you could still see the bite marks on his thigh,” Dr. Fritz Brink, a wound care specialist at HCA Florida Healthcare who treated Adams, told NBC News. “It made teeth marks. I was very convinced that he was telling a true story.”
The human mouth is teeming with bacteria, and many species can cause flesh-eating disease, aka necrotizing fasciitis. The list of potential culprits includes group A Streptococcus, which is not only a common type of bacteria generally but is also thought to be a common cause of necrotizing fasciitis. Group A strep causes strep throat, scarlet fever, cellulitis, and other diseases, in addition to flesh-eating infections. Some people asymptomatically carry the bacteria in their throat, mouth, nose, and/or skin.
It’s unclear which specific bacterium was behind Adams’ case. Brink speculated that Adams at first developed a nonserious infection that was able to spread deeper into the soft tissue and “was able to just take off.”
When Adams first sought care at an emergency department, he was given antibiotics and a tetanus shot. But the infection continued to worsen over the next few days. His leg became swollen and painful, and he had trouble walking. When Brink saw Adams’ thigh, he said it looked like an orange peel.
Adams was rushed to surgery on February 19 to remove rotten tissue. He ended up needing a second surgery several days later. He stayed in the hospital until roughly the second week of March. Brink estimates he removed around 60 percent of the skin on the front of Adams’ thigh to keep the infection from spreading. He used a vacuum device to close the wound.
Adams is now pain-free and without a limp. Despite lingering scar tissue, Brink expects he will make a full recovery.
As for his bitey family member, Adams said he has swallowed any bitterness.
“Family is everything, and sometimes things go down in families,” he said. “I’m a man of faith. People can be forgiven, and that’s the way I feel about that. It was a family event that went sour between two people and even though I got in the middle of it and I got injured, it doesn’t mean I’m going to hate my family over this.”