Centipede bite leads to amputation of lower leg

SINGAPORE - Two centipede bites on a 56-year-old diabetic's foot allowed flesh eating bacteria to infect his lower leg, leaving it dead and rotting by the next month.

Sharing his ordeal with The Straits Times, Tan Khian Seng, who is a motivational speaker, said he it took him a month to consider amputating his leg before actually going through it.

On September 23, 2011, Mr Tan was bitten by a small centipede when he put on his shoe. He shook off the centipede before driving his 14-year-old son to school.

Later that day, he noticed the two bites had swelled up and looked like two eggs. The bites were turning black and smelt of rotting flesh.

Mr Tan then went to the National University Hospital (NUH) where he was reportedly diagnosed with necrotising fasciitis, an infection caused by flesh-eating bacteria.

He was told by doctors that his entire right leg would have to be amputated. Mr Tan said he needed time to consider it first.

In the meantime, he was warded at NUH because the poison was affecting his liver, kidneys and spleen.

When he was discharged ten days later, the father of three visited Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) for a second opinion. There, doctors advised him to amputate his leg from the knee down.

He agreed to do so after a month of deliberation and the procedure was conducted in October 2011. He told the paper that by then his leg was already dead, had maggots and was basically stinking up the entire ward.

Mr Tan has since had a prosthetic leg fitted and is now recovering.

A centipede bite is usually painful but not dangerous and centipedes are not known to carry flesh-eating bacteria. Mr Tan said doctors he visited could not determine the source of the bacteria.

Flesh-eating bacteria can enter the body through a small wound in the skin. It can spread in the subcutaneous tissues rapidly, resulting in tissue death. In some cases, it can affect internal organs such as the kidneys or liver.

But flesh-eating bacteria acts rapidly and can cause death within 48 hours after entering the body through a cut.

Although most cases can be treated with antibiotics, mortality rates can be as high as about 40 per cent for those who do not seek early intervention.

The Straits Times reported that a retiree here died within two days after he was infected through a crab bite in 2007.

dassa@sph.com.sg

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