A 71-year old man in South Korea developed an infection after eating raw seafood, and resulting complications required an amputation of his forearm, according to a report published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The man had a history of Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, and he was undergoing dialysis for end-stage renal (kidney) disease. The illness developed within 12 hours of his meal and led to fever and excruciating pain in his left hand.

After two days of suffering, he visited the emergency room at Chonbuk National University Hospital in Jeonju, South Korea.

By the time he reached the hospital, a blood-filled cavity measuring 3.5 by 4.5 centimeters (about 1.5 by 2 inches) had developed on the palm of his left hand, while on the top of his hand and forearm, there was a swelling cavity under the skin.

When his doctors performed urgent surgery, they isolated Vibrio vulnificus, a bacterium commonly found in coastal ocean water, as the cause of his infection.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that these bacteria cause 205 infections each year nationwide. Some cases require amputations, and 15% to 30% of cases are fatal, according to the agency.

After surgery, the man received two powerful antibiotics intravenously. However, the drugs did not keep his skin lesions from worsening, and doctors performed an amputation of his left forearm 25 days after his arrival at the ER.

“The patient did well after the surgery and was discharged home,” the authors of his case report concluded.


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