Crystal Spencer battling flesh-eating bacteria, necrotizing fasciitis

6:37 AM, Jul 9, 2012   |    comments
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(CBS News) A flesh-eating infection has reportedly been found in a Michigan woman.

CBS News station WWJ in Detroit reports the woman has had several surgeries since she was admitted to a local hospital with the infection, called necrotizing fasciitis. She also had to have surgery to remove a mass from her stomach.

She was listed in serious condition on Friday.

Family members told WWJ the woman likely contracted the infection after she visited a local hospital to have a boil lanced.

The Detroit Free Press identifies the woman as 33-year-old Crystal Spencer of Farmington Hills, Mich. Her aunt Leanna Hornak told the paper that the woman had to have a tracheotomy tube inserted to help her breathe and has underwent skin grafts to repair areas that the infection destroyed. The family is concerned the woman may lose her leg.

"She is kind of alert as far as opening her eyes and squeezing hands," Hornak said. With regards to her niece's prognosis, she said, "It all varies. We've been told two to three months, and I've also heard until Christmas."

Necrotizing fasciitis has gained recent attention due to the story of 24-year-old graduate student Aimee Copeland, who is currently battling a rare form of the infection. She was infected with the bacteria following a May 1 ziplining accident along a Georgia river. Copeland left a Georgia hospital on July 2 after a two-month battle with the bacteria that required amputation of her left leg, right foot and both hands.

She has since entered rehabilitation to learn how to use a wheelchair. Eventually she will learn to use prosthetic limbs.

Necrotizing fasciitis is a rare but severe bacterial infection that releases toxins that cut off blood flow to parts of the body, potentially destroying muscle, skin and underlying tissues along the way. The disease commonly causes scarring and skin deformity. The flesh-eating infection can also rapidly cause death if proper treatment is not sought.

The infection can be caused by several types of bacteria, but most commonly the infection is due to Strep bacteria. Copeland's case was caused by Aeromonas hydrophila bacteria, which is found in warm brackish waters.

The National Institutes of Health has more on necrotizing fasciitis.

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