Brit rushed for emergency surgery as arm swells up in mysterious new bacterial infection after feral cat bite

7 August 2023, 12:35

A man suffered a dangerous cat bite
A man suffered a dangerous cat bite. Picture: Emerging Infectious Diseases/Alamy

By Kit Heren

A British man has baffled doctors after developing a mysterious infection from a cat bite that made his arm swell up dramatically.

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The unnamed man, whom doctors said was obese, needed emergency surgery to remove infected tissue from around the bite on his hand and arm.

The victim, 38, went to A&E after being bitten by the cat. Doctors gave him antibiotics for the painful bite, as well as a tetanus jab, and sent him on his way.

But 24 hours later, the man realised that something was still badly wrong with his hand and arm.

He went back to hospital where doctors saw that some of his fingers were seriously swollen.

Read more: Man charged with animal cruelty after 40 dead cats found on London estate

Read more: Armed officers gun down police dog after it bites handler and causes serious leg injury as force left 'devastated'

The man's swollen hand and arm
The man's swollen hand and arm. Picture: Emerging Infectious Diseases

Doctors surgically removed some of the tissue from his fingers and hand and gave him three more kinds of antibiotics.

The treatment, which took place in 2020 was a success, but doctors were baffled by the cause.

They took a swab from the infection and found it to be an unknown organism that was like the bacteria Streptococcus, which is associated with conditions like meningitis.

But the swabs suggested that the particular bacteria was a new microbe that had never previously been recorded - possibly a “distinct and previously undescribed species," as researchers put it.

The case was recorded in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases in an article by researchers from Cambridge, Imperial College and the UK Health Security Agency.

The researchers said this case highlights the role of cats as reservoirs of as yet undiscovered bacterial species that have human pathogenic potential.

Cat bites are known for being potentially dangerous. People are advised in all cases to immediately wash wounds from cat bites with soap or salt and see a doctor straight away.

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