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Student in fight for her life battling flesh-eating bacteria

May 12, 2012|By Rene Lynch
  • Aimee Copeland's sister Paige and their father, Andy, speak about Aimee Copeland's bacterial infection. She has already lost a leg.
Aimee Copeland's sister Paige and their father, Andy, speak about… (Emily Rose Bennett / The…)

Flesh-eating bacteria -- a rare, aggressive infection that violently attacks the deepest layers of skin -- has claimed a Georgia student's leg, hands and remaining foot, thrusting her into the fight of her life and stirring nationwide interest about her ordeal.

Aimee Copeland, 24, was kayaking near the Little Tallapoosa River in Georgia on May 1 when she hopped on a homemade zip-line for a ride. The line snapped, Copeland fell, and she suffered a cut to her calf.

The gash was deep enough to warrant medical attention -- doctors closed the wound with 22 staples. But a dangerous bacteria -- necrotizing fasciitis -- found its way into the wound.

Within days, Copeland was back in the hospital in grave condition.

The scourge has led to the amputation of the West Georgia University student's left leg. She is also expected to lose her hands and her remaining foot, according to the Associated Press. She is listed in critical condition at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Ga.

Copeland's family has used Facebookto keep family and friends apprised of her condition. Her ordeal has triggered wide interest. All week long, "flesh eating bacteria" and "zip line" were among the most frequently searched terms on Google.

Necrotizing fasciitis is especially difficult to treat because it can be initially overlooked, experts said. The outside of the wound appears to be healing, but the devastation is taking place on a much deeper level, Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University Medical School told Reuters.

"This often is a very subtle infection initially," he told Reuters. "These bacteria lodge in the deeper layers of the wound. The organism is deep in the tissues, and that's where it's causing its mischief."

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