Researchers from Statens Serum Institut have discovered a new bacterial species that can cause excruciating hand infections.

Among hunters and fishermen, it is well-known that in rare cases, handling of seals can lead to extremely painful hand infections known as seal finger or blubber finger. In these cases, common antibiotic treatments with penicillins are ineffective, and the infection can spread up the arm, requiring surgical intervention.

Researchers from Statens Serum Institut (SSI) have discovered that the infection is caused by a unique and previously unknown mycoplasma bacterium. They have characterised this new bacterial species and have named it Mycoplasma phocimorsus (from phoca: seal, and morsus: a bite), hence seal-bite mycoplasma.

The researchers have also demonstrated that the bacterium is susceptible to antibiotics other than penicillins, allowing for more targeted treatment and reducing the risk of complications, such as reduced hand and arm mobility.

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