A 71-year-old man in South Korea experienced every sushi lover’s worst nightmare when doctors had to amputate his forearm, apparently because he’d consumed contaminated raw seafood.
The unnamed patient showed up at Chonbuk National University Medical School in Jeonju with a fever and severe pain in his left hand, according to a case study published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The patient told doctors the problem started 12 hours after he’d eaten raw seafood, though the article does not specify what kind of seafood he’d consumed.
Doctors noticed a deep purple blister measuring 1.4 by 1.8 inches on the man’s hand and discovered it was infected with Vibrio vulnificus, flesh-eating bacteria found in salt water and similar to the bacteria that cause cholera.
The doctors performed emergency surgery to remove the bacteria and gave the man antibiotics. However, when the flesh on the patient’s hand and arm started dying, doctors had to amputate his left forearm 25 days after his first hospital visit.
Vibrio vulnificus can spread through both water and food, though it’s most commonly passed on in seafood, especially oysters.
Although the bacteria typically cause abdominal pain and diarrhea in healthy people, they can be deadly for folks with compromised immune systems — particularly those with chronic liver disease.
The New England Journal of Medicine article noted that the patient had a history of Type 2 diabetes mellitus as well as hypertension, and was undergoing kidney dialysis.
The article did note that the man recovered nicely after his amputation surgery and was sent home.