Bacteria Staphylococcus aureus can reach the bloodstream if the skin is pierced by a pimple or a piercing
A common bacteria in our bodies, usually present in the skin of our faces, may cause severe problems if it reaches our bloodstream. Cases of people who became paralyzed from the waist down after a small nose infection raised a red flag for health risks. In Brasília, 20-year-old Layane Dias became a tetraplegic after getting a piercing. The infection entered her bloodstream and caused damages to the young woman’s spinal cord. A similar case happened with Abaeté, Minas Gerais, saleswoman Lilian Duarte, who lost the movements after popping a pimple.
Layane Dias already had a piercing before she did the procedure which paralyzed her. In the second time, however, there were severe complications. The young woman had an infection, caused by bacteria Staphylococcus Aureus, which spread through her blood and lodged in the spinal cord. She tells that she first realized the problem in early June last year, when a red spot appeared at the tip of her nose, followed by fever and aches all over her body. The student resorted to ointments and over-the-counter medications to try to relieve the symptoms, but her condition got worse, until one month later she lost all movement of the lower limbs.
According to infection specialist Monica Gomes da Silva, a consultant at the Brazilian Infection Diseases Society, the Staphylococcus Aureus bacteria typically affects the skin. “The bacteria only create more severe problems when there is a rupture and it is able to reach lower levels of the skin and the bloodstream. In the case of the student, there was the aggravating factor that the piercing was placed inside the nose, in an area where the bacteria is usually present,” she explains, adding:
“The bacteria Staphylococcus Aureus has as one of its main characteristics causing an infectious metastasis in places which are distant from its entry point. The bacteria spreads itself through the body, and is able to infect multiple places, such as the spinal cord, the heart, the fingers, and the toes.”
And these are not rare infections, but if they are treated at an early stage they can be treated with no severe consequences, as the doctor explains. “As soon as we examine patients with an infection in their bodies we take into the account the possibility that the bacteria entered their organisms through skin lesions. People who get pierced, for instance, are not often aware that this is an aggression. The severity of what happened to Layane is not common, but it is not impossible,” emphasizes doctor Monica Gomes da Silva.
Inflammation and sequels
Saleswoman Lilian Duarte, from Abaeté, Minas Gerais, underwent a similar situation two years ago. It started with an inflammation on her nose, the beginning of an abscess. She thought it was a common pimple and tried to pop it, but the inflammation only got worse, and eventually entered the bloodstream, lodging itself in the spinal cord.
“It was despairing, an immense pain, I went to a hospital because I couldn’t feel my legs anymore. The infection spread through five vertebrae. The pain was so bad I thought I was going to die, not even morphine could relieve it. I was operated by a team of doctors, and the neurosurgeon saved my life.”
The saleswoman says that after the surgery she had to wear a vest for six months. After a great deal of physical therapy, she was able to recover the movement in her legs. “I’ve learned in the hard way that you should never pop a pimple, always wash your hands and disinfect them with alcohol sanitizers because bacteria are in our bodies, and when we least expect it they can get inside us, especially through the nose,” she says.
Lilian Duarte is able to walk again, but still has sequels: “I feel numbness and pins and needles in my feet. I used to feel it from the knee down, but now it has gotten better. Somedays I can’t even feel my feet. I hope one day I’ll get fully recovered.”
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A bactéria Staphylococcus aureus pode atingir a corrente sanguínea em caso de ruptura da pele, como uma espinha ou piercing