“American Horror Story” released a promo for its sixth season Friday showing a woman seemingly infected with flesh-eating bacteria crawling up on a beach. The promo was captioned, “Don’t let it take you.”

While the promo may have excited “American Horror Story” fans awaiting the upcoming season, it also put spotlight on necrotizing fasciitis — a rare but life-threatening infection that kills the body’s soft tissue (hence, the name flesh-eating bacteria).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a person has extremely low chances of getting necrotizing fasciitis if he or she has a strong immune system and follows good hygiene and wound care. Although the incidences of the infection are rare, the bacteria that kill the tissues are not uncommon.


The flesh-eating infection can be caused by more than one bacterium that may come in contact due to an insect bite, a burn or a cut.

“These include group A Streptococcus [group A strep], Klebsiella, Clostridium, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Aeromonas hydrophila, among others. Group A strep is considered the most common cause of necrotizing fasciitis,” according to the CDC.

Infections from group A strep bacteria are often easily treated given their mild nature. However, in the case of flesh-eating infection, bacteria spread quickly after entering the body.

A person can also get necrotizing fasciitis when ocean water, raw saltwater fish or raw oysters come in contact with injuries. It can also be caused due to wounds from handling sea animals such as crabs, an intestinal surgery site, tumors or gunshot injuries in the intestines.

The infection is rarely spread from person to person, but if a person comes in contact with those having necrotizing fasciitis, doctors may prescribe antibiotics to reduce the chances of getting flesh-eating bacteria.


The symptoms of the infection can show within hours of an injury and may look like any other sickness. However, according to the CDC, those with the infection are likely to complain about soreness similar to a pulled muscle, warm skin, red or purplish areas of swelling that stretch out quickly, ulcers, blisters or black marks on the skin, severe pain, fever, chills, fatigue and vomiting. A person showing these symptoms after an injury should consult a doctor.


Treating necrotizing fasciitis early is important as the chances of recovering from the infection are high. If ignored, the infection can lead to severe complications such as amputation or death. Surgery is often needed to control the infection while medicines like antibiotics kill the bacteria that cause necrotizing fasciitis. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy that boosts the body’s natural healing process may also be required to treat the infection.


Flesh-eating bacteria can be prevented by properly taking care of wounds. One should keep wounds that are draining or open covered with clean, dry bandages until cured. First aid is important even for minor, non-infected wounds. Those having open wounds or infection should avoid using whirlpools, hot tubs and swimming pools.