A 44-year-old man from Michigan was suffering from a severe stomachache. But what he thought was simply a pain in his stomach caused him to fight not only for his limbs, but also his life. A trip to the emergency room showed Kevin Breen’s stomach as hardened, swollen, and filled with pus. It turned out that it wasn’t just a stomachache, but was actually a severe case of strep throat.
How Do Strep Bacteria Cause This Extreme Complication?
Most are familiar with strep throat, which is also known as streptococcal pharyngitis that has the following symptoms:
- Sore throat that’s sudden and very severe
- Usually no cold, sneezing, and coughing
- Difficulty with swallowing, usually painful
- With spots on the tonsils and throat
- Fever over 101 F
- Swollen lymph nodes found in the neck
Most people ignore strep throat, but there are usually prescribed antibiotics to treat it. There are also home remedies to stop strep throat, such as this remedy that promises to provide relief within 24 hours.
What happened to Breen was so rare and shocking. He went to the emergency room around Christmas with stomach pain and flu-like symptoms. The doctors thought it was a case of acute pancreatitis. But when his stomach started to get bigger, he was prepped for surgery. Pus surrounded several of his organs and even doctors couldn’t explain what happened to him.
After surgery, a rash appeared on Breen’s chest, which is one of the symptoms of strep infection. After testing for streptococcus bacteria, the result came back positive. The infection was already severe that he went into septic shock, which is a complication that is life threatening due to dangerously low blood pressure. Toxins from the bacteria, along with the natural inflammatory response of the body against the infection, damage the tissues leading to hypotension.
The intense drop in blood pressure causes reduced blood flow to extremities, so these areas of the body begin to die. Breen’s case had parts of his hands and feet turn black due to tissue death. This resulted to amputation of his left hand, as well as his fingers on his right hand. He also lost parts of his feet. Because the bacteria already spread to his stomach, the strep throat infection was so severe and wasn’t caught early. He tested negative at first, but note that 10 to 20% of strep throat cases appear as false negatives.