Last month, a Transavia Airlines flight had to be diverted from the Canary Islands to the Netherlands to Portugal, as the overwhelming smell of a man caused some passengers to vomit. 1
Last month, a Transavia Airlines flight had to be diverted after an overpowering smell had caused some passengers to vomit. It turned out that the pungent odor was caused by an infection that made his heart rot.
The 58-year-old man died less than a month later, on Monday (June 25), after his organs failed.
Andrey Suchilin, a Russian guitarist, was on vacation in the Canary Islands in Spain when he contracted the infection. Before he went back, he visited a doctor who told him it was a typical beach infection and gave him some antibiotics, CBS News reported. [27 Devastating Infectious Diseases]
But when his smell caused Suchilin's plane to be diverted to the Netherlands to Portugal, he was taken to the hospital, where his condition worsened. Doctors diagnosed a tissue necrosis or a tissue death. He was put into a medically induced coma, but neither surgery nor antibiotics seemed to improve his condition. He later died of organ failure, CBS News reported.
This infection was probably caused by carnivorous bacteria. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. Typically, bacteria need oxygen to grow, said Schaffner. But these special bacteria can work without easy access to oxygen, Schaffner said. So if they penetrate deep into the body through wounds, they can stay there and multiply and destroy muscles and other soft tissues.
Because these bacteria infect the body, they cut off the blood supply to the tissues and cause rot. When Suchilin boarded the plane, "the infection was apparently advanced, [and] significant amounts of muscle tissue … were literally rotten," Schaffner told Live Science. And decaying tissue in the body can have a "pungent and unpleasant odor".
According to Schaffner, infections by carnivorous bacteria are "very unusual". But in some circumstances, they can happen from time to time: when a person has an injury or an open wound near a water environment.
With early diagnosis or treatment, people can typically be rescued, Schaffner said. But sometimes, knowing such an infection can be quite difficult, he added.
The first thing to do when you get a cut is to wash it out and watch out for redness, swelling or discharge that may indicate more serious infection, Schaffner said. However, because these infections are deep in the tissues and can infect the muscle, "they can be quite deceptive."
He added that "what almost always accompanies these illnesses are substantial pain," pain that does not seem to be as intense as the cut on the surface looks like. Then, you know, something is deep in the body, he said.
The treatment of such infections involves a combination of antibiotics and surgical procedures to remove the affected tissue and thereby stop the spread of the bacteria, Schaffner said. "Sometimes patients can work very well, but they can have a serious disability because so much tissue needs to be cut out," Schaffner says.
"This is a terribly sad story of diagnosis and treatment delay [s] for a very, very serious infection," he added.
Originally published on Live Science .