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Stevens Johnson Syndrome: Bug Bite Turns Tragic

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Detroit, MIFor most people, it would be unthinkable that a bug bite could set off a chain of events that results in a person’s death, but when it comes to Stevens Johnson Syndrome (SJS), that is exactly what can happen. Some antibiotics used to treat bug bites have side effects that include SJS. Although reports have not indicated what antibiotics the patient was on, antiobiotic Zithromax side effects include an increased risk of reactions such as SJS. In addition to Zithromax, other antibiotics and other medications, including antiepileptic medications, have been linked to SJS.

According to Fox 17 (8/21/14), Cassandra Campbell’s tragic story began in July, when she was bitten by a bug. Cassandra had given birth only weeks before and, as a precaution, went to the hospital to go on antibiotics. Shortly after she began the antibiotics, Cassandra developed flu-like symptoms and a rash. She went to the ER twice but was sent home.

A few days later, Cassandra was rushed to the hospital. She could not open her eyes. Even after she was diagnosed with SJS, the symptoms grew worse, with blisters covering her body and her skin falling off. Before she died, doctors performed CPR on Cassandra three times. Only three weeks passed from the time Cassandra gave birth to the time she died.

SJS is a rare allergic reaction to medication. It can affect anyone at any time, even when taking medications that were previously tolerated. It is so rare that it is often misdiagnosed, and patients do not always realize what symptoms to watch for when they take the medicine. Patients may lose their skin, become blind or suffer other serious vision problems and develop permanent problems with their mucous membranes.

Both SJS and its more severe form, toxic epidermal necrolysis, are life threatening. Patients can survive their ordeal but often suffer permanent health problems.

Some research is being done into the factors associated with the development of SJS. Recently, researchers in Taiwan conducted a study that suggested a genetic variant could cause certain patients taking phenytoin (a seizure medication) to develop SJS or toxic epidermal necrolysis.

It is not known whether similar factors would make other patients taking antibiotics and other medications more susceptible to developing SJS or toxic epidermal necrolysis. Their study appears in the August 6 issue of JAMA.

Lawsuits have been filed against the makers of various drugs, alleging patients were not adequately warned about the risk of developing SJS when taking the medications.

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READER COMMENTS

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on
Suffered severe reaction SJS in May 2014 from augmenton . Taking z-pk for sinus infection & immediately developed increase pain. & phlebitis . I was just about to take my 2 nod dose when I realized my symptoms are similar to when I had SJS. But my doctor prescribed the z-pk cause he said it's not in pennnicillin family so I shouldn't get SJS . I baffled & not sure what to do . I was at ER earlier this am for the phlebitis but didn't mention I had started z-pk cause I thought it was irrelevant . Now I second guessing myself & wishing I had mentioned it

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