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WATCH: Doctor explains why he doesn’t eat raw oysters - and his reason might freak you out

Raw oysters can be a breeding ground for bacteria that leads to a flesh-eating disease. Picture: John Fornander /unsplash

Raw oysters can be a breeding ground for bacteria that leads to a flesh-eating disease. Picture: John Fornander /unsplash

Published Mar 16, 2023


We all take risks in life; but, we don’t often consider the foods we consume to be life-threatening or risky.

Seafood is the GOAT of food for a variety of reasons – it’s a natural source of heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, and it’s full of vitamins and minerals.

The healthy fats in seafood help reduce the unhealthy fat found in our bloodstream, which raises the risk of heart disease.

Even though seafood is packed with nutrients and has multiple benefits, it’s somewhat of an acquired taste, especially when it comes to oysters.

Weight loss surgeon Dr Terry Simpson, MD, posted a video on his TikTok account explaining why he no longer consumes raw oysters.

According to him, a colleague consulted him about a patient with severe gangrene of his leg caused by the Vibrio vulnificus infection that leads to necrotizing fasciitis (NF), also known as flesh-eating disease, a bacterial infection that results in the death of parts of the body's soft tissue. As a result, the infected patient had to have an amputation below the knee.

Dr Simpson explained in his video how Vibrio vulnificus is usually contracted, which is typically through the consumption of raw oysters, sushi or other foods that are contaminated with those bipeds that grow in warm brackish water, such as during hurricanes in Florida.

As it turns out, patient X had eaten raw oysters while out with his friends.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those who have the Vibrio vulnificus infection need critical care or have to have a limb amputated, and one in five of those who contract this infection die, sometimes just a day or two after becoming ill.

In addition, according to the CDC, over 80 000 Americans contract vibriosis annually, and 100 of them pass away as a result.

A picture of patient X's CT scan is shown in Simpson's video as he describes the agonising treatment the patient endured. As he continues to explain, you see air pockets between the muscles in the CT scan, which indicate that the bacteria are producing air, a classic sign of bacteria eating away at the muscle tissue, said Dr Simpson.

He goes on to explain, “The bacteria had not only gone beyond the stump of his below-the-knee amputation but was going all the way up to his waist. We brought him into the operating room where we basically filleted him open from that stump all the way to his waist.

“We cleaned off the bottom of his stump and started to clean it out and took him to a hyperbaric chamber and then administered intensive antibiotics every day for a month. I would bring him to the operating room, open him more, and clean out more dead fascia, dead muscle, trying to get ahead of the infection.”

Thanks to the combined efforts of the healthcare professionals, patient X was able to recover completely.

TikTok users had mixed reactions over Simpson’s video, with one commenting, “Never needed another reason to not eat raw oysters, but I’ll go ahead and add this to the list.”

Leeroy Jenkins said, “I don’t need this kind of negativity in my life.”

A user named Vaneelyon commented, “What if I eat oysters immediately followed by a double shot of vodka or fireball? Am I safe?”

And in response to that question, the Food and Drug Administration explicitly states that consuming raw oysters while consuming alcohol or hot sauce does not eliminate the bacteria. Only heat can destroy the bacteria.

If you do have stomach pain after eating oysters or notice redness or swelling around a wound after swimming in salt or brackish water, you are advised to call your doctor.

Read the latest issue of IOL Health digital magazine here.