Woman Scratched By Cat on Breast Develops Rare Flesh-Eating Disease Called Pyoderma Gangrenosum
The woman from Canada suffered for 10 years from the deadly flesh-eating disease called Pyoderma Gangrenosum. (Photo credits: Flickr/ PubMed)

A Canadian woman’s near-death experience with a flesh-eating disease will make cat lovers rethink their choice of pets. Although cats make adorable pets, they pose a high health risk for certain zoonotic diseases such as toxoplasmosis and cat scratch disease. A 48-year-old mother of two, Theresa Ferris White, 48, from Nova Scotia, Canada developed pyoderma gangrenosum (PG) from a cat scratch, while she was working in an animal shelter ten years ago. She grappled with this flesh-eating illness for over a decade and has barely survived to tell the tale.

Theresa recollected her time at the shelter when she was trying to dry a cat with a towel. The animal struggled in her arms and ended up scratching her right breast. The next day, a lump developed at the site of the cat scratch. Gradually, the area started throbbing with pain and she had to be hospitalised.

For the next five days, Theresa was admitted at the Dartmouth General Hospital in Nova Scotia and was placed on intravenous antibiotics. Soon after that, the skin on the right breast started blistering and peeling away. The infection spread across her breast, leaving her with gaping, raw wounds. Her skin started rotting, literally sliding off her body. She lost her right nipple and the doctors had to eventually graft skin from a dead donor to treat the deformity.

The condition PG is an uncommon disease of an autoimmune nature. Ulcerations, blisters or pustules characterise the inflammatory condition. The disease is so rare that only 1-3 cases are seen per million annually. The disease mainly affects people between the ages of 20 and 50 and is slightly more common in females. The disease is frequently associated with autoimmune diseases. It’s triggered by an abnormal response to a stimulus such as trauma or wound and is said to be the result of an overactive immune system.

Once the condition is triggered, the skin starts developing a lumpy boil, which then becomes ulcers, pustules, blisters or wart-like formations. Usually, the disease is treated by immunosuppressive therapies where the immune system is temporarily suppressed to prevent the condition from worsening. Sometimes topical agents and localised therapy are also used. But the understanding of PG is still very sketchy, and much of it is shrouded in mystery.

Theresa who’s been to hell and back following her illness also suffered from PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The extensive damage caused by the disease also dented her self-esteem and caused body image issues. But today she’s a changed woman and has successfully overcome her painful condition. She now devotes much of her time to spread awareness about the deadly disease.