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FDA Issues Warning About Rare Flesh-Eating Genital Bacteria Linked To Diabetes Medication


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer

Kateryna Kon/Shutterstock

Today in oh-god-why-did-I-read-this news, certain diabetes medications have been linked to flesh-eating genital infections. We warned you.

That warning came from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Last week, they announced that “cases of a rare but serious infection of the genitals and area around the genitals have been reported,” caused by a type 2 diabetes drug called sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitors.


“This serious rare infection, called necrotizing fasciitis of the perineum, is also referred to as Fournier’s gangrene,” they said. “We are requiring a new warning about this risk to be added to the prescribing information of all SGLT2 inhibitors.”

Fournier’s gangrene is an extremely rare but life-threatening bacterial infection that can occur between your anus and genitals. The bacteria get into your body via a break in the skin, and then spread and destroy tissue. It has a mortality rate of more than 20 percent.

While more common in people with diabetes, the rates are still very low; 1.6 out of 100,000 men in the US get it annually. The FDA said it identified 12 cases (seven men and five women) of Fournier’s gangrene from March 2013 to May 2018, with the patients having taken an SGLT2 inhibitor. All required surgery, and one died.

According to Forbes, diabetes medications like this cause more sugar to be excreted through the urine. This can make genitals more, well, “sugary”, and become a popular spot for bacteria. And in Fournier’s gangrene, these bacteria (Clostridium perfringens, Group A StreptococcusStaphylococcus aureus, and Vibrio vulnificus) then start eating the flesh around your genitals. And if they spread around the body, it can be fatal.


Somewhat alarmingly, about 1.7 million people are thought to have been given an SGLT2 inhibitor in 2017. The FDA said that patients should seek medical attention immediately if they notice any symptoms of tenderness, redness, swelling of the genitals, a fever, or feeling unwell.

“These symptoms can worsen quickly, so it is important to seek treatment right away,” they noted.

This isn’t the only flesh-eating disease making the news lately. Back in August, it was reported that a woman in Stockport in the UK had been diagnosed with Donovanosis. This is spread through unprotected sex, and while not exactly flesh-eating, it can cause nasty ulcers and lesions, making it look like flesh is rotting.


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