West Bend man nearly dies from dog saliva, researchers find answers to medical mystery

NOW: West Bend man nearly dies from dog saliva, researchers find answers to medical mystery

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A West Bend man had his arms and legs amputated after contracting a bacteria when he was licked by a dog last year. Now, researchers believe they're finding answers to the medical mystery. 

Capnocytophaga bacteria, which is in dog and cat saliva, is common. It normally doesn't make people sick unless their immune system is compromised. However, a West Bend man, Greg Manteufel, was in good health and still had part of his arms and legs amputated after contracting the bacteria. He also lost his nose and upper lip last year. 

"But we are identifying this as a risk factor that could be relevant for those people's management, as well as just giving an answer to why this happened for many of our patients, including Greg. This is a real medical mystery," said Elizabeth Fieg, a Genetic Counselor at Brigham and Women's Hospital. 

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital looked at Greg's case and five other cases to try and solve the medical mystery. They say they found that a change in a gene related to the immune system prevented their bodies from being able to fight off the bacteria, which made them susceptible to the infection. Now they're hoping their work could help others, and also learn more about the immune system. 

"If very early on they start to present with symptoms, things might be able to be done differently that could prevent things from escalating to such severe problems. That is what happened with Greg and led to amputations," Fieg said. 

Greg Manteufel has come a long way. His wife, Dawn, says he's been using prosthetic arms and will be getting full prosthetic legs with joints soon. 

"We take it day-by-day and it's getting easier day-by-day," Dawn said. "It takes time, but we just have to remember to be patient." 

As the couple waits for answers, they still have their dog Ellie by their side. 

"We don't treat her any differently," Dawn said. 

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