A property manager claims she needed all five toes on her right foot amputated after catching a bone-eating infection from a fish spa on holiday in Thailand.
Victoria Curthoys, of Perth, Australia, already had half of one toe chopped off after catching an infection more than a decade ago.
And surgeons amputated her other digits after she unknowingly caught shewanella from the spa in 2010, where freshwater fish feed on any dead skin.
Doctors in Australia took two years to diagnose her with the water-borne bug, which had left her battling recurring fevers and sickness.
It rotted away the rest of her big toe after seeping through her prior surgery wounds, forcing medics to amputate it in 2012.
The pressure of walking on her smaller toes left Miss Curthoys with ulcers hiding further infections. All her toes were amputated over the next five years.
Victoria Curthoys, of Perth, Australia, already had half of one toe chopped off after catching an infection more than a decade ago
Speaking about her ordeal, the 29-year-old said: ‘When I was in Thailand I decided to use a fish spa.
‘I thought nothing of it as I’d watched the owner set up the system and it looked very clean, but how wrong I was.’
Miss Curthoys revealed she had half of her big toe amputated when she was just 17, after she caught it on some glass.
It didn’t cause her any pain so she didn’t notice it was there for a while – but by then it was too late as an infection had spread to her bone.
Doctors were forced to amputate half of the property manager’s big toe. The rest of it was removed in 2012 – two years after her trip to Thailand.
She said: ‘I ended up getting another bone infection in my big toe and it took doctors over a year to figure out what type of bug I had.
‘By the time they’d realised what it was, my entire toe bone had been eaten away and I’d been suffering from sickness the whole time.
‘They eventually decided to take the big toe off completely. I felt relieved I could go back to my life without being sick all the time.
And surgeons amputated her other digits after she unknowingly caught shewanella from the spa in 2010, where freshwater fish feed on any dead skin (pictured, her right foot now)
Miss Curthoys added: ‘A year of walking without a big toe caused ulcers on the second toe from the pressure placed on it.
‘It had a rough callus over the top, but I was unaware that underneath that there was another raging infection. This time, the doctors took the second toe and left me with three toes.
‘I was healthy for another two years, I thought I was very lucky to still have my foot and carried on with my life. But then I started to get sick again.’
She said she would vomit every morning and constantly have a fever – but medics could not find any signs of an infection.
Miss Curthoys added: ‘So the doctors fobbed it off for a long time and they told me it was all in my head.
Doctors were forced to amputate half of the property manager’s big toe when she was 17. The rest of it was removed in 2012 – two years after her trip to a fish spa in Thailand (stock)
WHAT IS SHEWANELLA INFECTION?
Shewanella are a type of bacteria which are found everywhere in the environment but rarely cause infection in humans.
They are most often found in water – both fresh and salt water – and in foods and sewage.
Although usually harmless, if they get into the body they can cause ear infections, cellulitis, abscesses, or infect existing wounds.
A 2013 review of 16 known cases of shewanella infection in humans found 13 per cent of people infected with the bacteria died.
There are at least 30 species of the bacteria, which were originally found in butter in 1931, and they may live in water, dairy products, oil and animal carcasses.
The bacteria usually enter the body through broken skin or the digestive tract.
Most cases occur in warm climates, but they can appear anywhere – the 2013 research found multiple infections in Denmark, South Korea, South Africa, the US, Taiwan, Belgium and India.
The infections can usually be treated with common antibiotics but may be resistant to penicillin in some cases.
‘It wasn’t until my podiatrist ordered blood samples they realised I did in fact have another bone infection and I had a very high white blood cell count. This was why I was feeling so terrible.’
Surgeons amputated her third and fourth toes in November 2016 but left the small toe.
She said: ‘Because the little toe was the only one left, I kept knocking it and when I walked, and all the pressure would go onto the little toe.
‘Last year I noticed my small toe wasn’t looking very happy and there was some liquid on my sock, but I couldn’t see any cuts.
‘After a few blood samples and more X-rays, they discovered another bone infection, so they finally took the last toe in November 2017.’
Miss Curthoys claimed that one day she may lose her entire right leg if she fails to spot an infection, so he has to check her feet everyday for pressure spots.
Miss Curthoys admitted she was afraid of showing her toeless right foot for a while, until she came to terms with it.
She is now warning against using the fish spas – already considered controversial – which caused her so much devastation.
Speaking about her feet now, she said: ‘I can honestly say that my foot has never been as healthy as it is now. Now I can put pressure on my foot.
‘Now and again I tend to trip because of the lack of feeling and having to get used to not having any toes, but I’ve been very lucky to be able to just get back up and walk.
‘My parents are proud of me and my friends think I’m awesome because I’ve been through a lot.
‘But at the end of the day I’ve seen people with far worse injuries and life-altering illnesses, so I consider myself lucky.’
Miss Curthoys added: ‘I used to be a bit worried when I was at the beach or pools in case someone would see my foot and think “yuck”.
She now takes regular photos of her feet and posts them on her Instagram account, @terrifically-toeless, to build her own confidence and help others.