Flesh-eating zombies may be the work of science fiction horror, but necrotizing soft tissue infection—a severe type of infection that destroys tissue—is a real condition that can kill about 30 percent of those infected and disfigure the rest.
Such tissue infections are rare and involve bacteria growing inside the body and often deep under the skin. They are difficult to diagnose because many cases show little outward signs. These infections progress rapidly, so quick intervention is important in increasing the patient’s chances for survival. Researchers at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute have found that simple blood tests, such as white blood cell count and serum sodium level, helped physicians to determine whether patients have the disease and to decide on a treatment protocol.1
How can flesh-eating bacteria exist in a creation once deemed good by its Creator?2 Scientific observation is consistent with the concept that many infections, including those resulting from flesh-eating bacteria, are products of healthy cell parts that have broken down. Several different bacteria—including Streptococcus pyogenes, Vibrio vulnificus, and MRSA3—can be responsible, singly or together, for causing necrotizing soft tissue infections. These bacteria are able to counteract the body’s defense systems with various molecules called “virulence factors.”
In some cases, the virulence factors could have originally been good molecules that were used by bacteria to compete for survival space, thus maintaining a healthy ecological balance. Others could have associated with higher organisms in neutral, or even beneficial, ways. The Vibrio bacteria, some of which are responsible for cholera, produce molecules that interact specifically with epithelium in fish and squid pouches in a delicate coordination to produce bioluminescence for hunting. The proteins from Vibrio are only virulence factors when they are found in inappropriate environments like the human body.4
Some molecular machinery that enables infections today could also have originally been made for specified purposes, but may have since degenerated to the point that it can interact with other organisms, thus causing infection. Anthrax would fall into this category.5 In addition, the Creator may have provided these “toxins” in part for their medicinal potential, as in the case of botulin, knowing that they would be needed in a fallen world.6 In fact, there is now a patent on the use of Streptococcus pyogenes’ main virulent factor to treat connective tissue disorders.7
While it is not yet known what best explains the presence of flesh-eating bacteria, current scientific observation is consistent with the fall of creation, as recorded in Genesis.
- Blood tests can help detect presence of necrotizing soft tissue infections. Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute press release, December 4, 2008.
- Genesis 1:31.
- Thomas, B. New Antibiotic Kills Drug-resistant Superbugs. ICR News. Posted on icr.org July 14, 2008, accessed December 5, 2008.
- Sherwin, F. 2005.Creation, Corruption, and Cholera. Acts & Facts 34.(11).
- Wood, T. 2002. The Terror of Anthrax in a Degrading Creation. Acts & Facts 31 (3).
- Romans 8:22-23.
- Method of treatment of connective tissue disorders by administration of streptolysin O. U.S. Patent 6998121. Posted on freepatentsonline.com.
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer.
Article posted on December 15, 2008.