TODAY | May 17, 2012
>>> dr. nancy snyderman is nbc's chief medical editor. good morning to you.
>> hey, matt.
>> it strikes me how different these cases are. i kind of can get aimee copeland cuts herself, exposed to perhaps river or stream water. but lana kuykendall just had babies, had just given birth.
>> otherwise healthy except when you're in your third trimester, your immune system really does change. so she was at risk for infection. the question is, did she have a cut on her leg beforehand? did she pick up this infection in the hospital? i don't know. but it's not related necessarily to being pregnant.
>> but same kind of bacteria, always causes this?
>> no. it can be staph, strep, clostridium. there's a laundry list. it releases a toxin and that destroys the tissue. there are sometimes layers in the body between muscle. it's almost like a canvas sheet type of layer. but it doesn't have a lot of blood supply. and if the bacteria gets in there, it can literally zoom along the highway and spread. and that's when you see these big areas of destruction.
>> and you kind of just touched on what i was going to ask you. it's rare, 500 to 1,000 cases a year --
>> i think it's underreported.
>> but why is it so difficult to stop once it's diagnosed?
>> a lot of time it's deep tissue. take aimee copeland, deep tissue injury, sewn up appropriately in the operating room, but the bacteria was probably deep into her thigh where it was allowed to fester. what people need to remember is that every wound gets some bacteria in it. you start with soap and water and clean it out. but if over the next 24, 48 hours there is redness, increased pain, the wound doesn't get better, it gets worse. but pain that is disproportionate to what you think the cut is, that's the hallmark sign because this toxin can be destroying tissue that's deep, deep, deep away from what the visual eye can see.
>> and is there any way to take precautions against something like this?
>> not necessarily precautions other than being hyper aware and getting to the hospital immediately. the treatment is i.v. antibiotics.
>> for a long period of time?
>> maybe five days to seven days depending -- could be longer. my concern right now is that if people don't go within a matter of hours, it can be a problem. and with increasing antibacterial resistance, and not a lot of drugs in the pipeline, the antibiotics make a difference. so again, remember, the big thing is, if the pain doesn't match the wound, think that something is serious and get help immediately.
>> all right, nancy snyderman , nancy, thank you very much.