Barry Keoghan Almost Died from Necrotizing Fasciitis: What Is It?

Barry Keoghan
The “Saltburn” actor recently revealed details of his battle with Necrotizing fasciitis, a rare but potentially fatal flesh-eating bacteria.Emma McIntyre/WireImage/Getty Images
  • Actor Barry Keoghan has revealed that he developed necrotizing fasciitis a potentially deadly infection.
  • Necrotizing fasciitis is a serious infection that can lead to amputation and death. 
  • Symptoms include fever and chills, blisters, ulcers and black spots on the skin, and confusion, shock, and drowsiness. 
  • Patients who suspect they have contracted necrotizing fasciitis should seek urgent medical care. 

Actor Barry Keoghan has revealed he almost died from necrotizing fasciitis infection.

The Irish actor, best known for his roles in Saltburn and The Banshees Of Inisherin, told GQ that he developed the life threatening infection in his arm in October 2022.

In the interview, Keoghan recalls asking doctors, “But I’m not gonna die, right?” and the doctors responding, “Well, we don’t know.”

“I’m not sure if he was on a lot of meds, but he seemed to shrug it off,” Martin McDonagh, the British-Irish playwright who wrote Keoghan’s role in The Banshees Of Inisherin, told GQ. “We were only about four days out from shooting, and his arm was puffed up. But he was like, ‘Yeah, no, I’m going to be fine — I’ll see you on Tuesday.’”

Though rare, necrotizing fasciitis infection can spread quickly through the body and become deadly.

What is necrotizing fasciitis infection?

“Necrotizing fasciitis is a rare and life-threatening infection that causes the death of the body’s soft tissue,” explains Dr. Semiya Aziz, founder of Say GP.

“It can happen when a wound gets infected by certain types of bacteria, most commonly streptococcal bacteria.”

As the infection spreads, it produces toxins that destroy nearby tissue, harm blood vessels, and stop the flow of blood.

If not treated quickly, it can cause serious side effects like septic shock and organ failure, sometimes resulting in the need for amputation.

Highlighting the seriousness of the infection, Aziz says even with treatment, the infection can be fatal in up to 30% of cases.

How does a necrotizing fasciitis infection develop?

“Bacteria can enter through a break in the skin like a cut or burn,” says Dr. Christina M Wojewoda, chair of the College of American Pathologists Microbiology Committee. “Those bacteria have toxins and other pathogenic factors that can lead to the death of tissue.”

It’s important to note that there are different types of necrotizing fasciitis due to the strain of bacteria that causes the infection.

Wojewoda says the most common type of necrotizing fasciitis is caused by a mixture of different types of bacteria and usually occurs in the abdominal or groin areas.

The next most common type is due to Streptococcus pyogenes, the same bacterium that causes strep throat. “This is more common in young, healthy adults with a history of injury and involves the extremities,” Wojewoda explains. “The third type is Vibrio vulnificus, which is found in seawater.”

While anyone can contract necrotizing fasciitis, Aziz points out that some people will be more at risk of developing it, such as those living with diabetes, have a weakened immune system, or living with a chronic illness.

Symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis infection

Symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis can include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Blisters, ulcers, and black spots on the skin
  • Intense pain or loss of feeling near the cut or wound
  • Confusion and drowsiness
  • Shock
  • Swelling

Recognizing the symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis infection is crucial. Aziz says the symptoms can vary depending on the stage and severity of the infection.

However, people most commonly experience fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

“These are signs of systemic infection or sepsis,” Aziz explains.

The infection also causes blisters, ulcers, or black spots on the skin, which may indicate tissue death or gangrene.

“There may be intense pain or loss of feeling near a cut or wound, and the pain may be much worse than expected from the injury,” Aziz adds.

You should also look out for confusion, drowsiness, or shock — which are signs of low blood pressure or organ failure — as well as swelling, redness, and warmth of the skin around the affected area.

What to do if you suspect you have necrotizing fasciitis

Delays in treatment can lead to death, so Aziz says it’s crucial that you seek medical care right away.

To get medical help, you should either call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room as soon as possible.

When you seek medical assistance, Aziz says you can expect to be examined by a doctor who will look for signs of necrotizing fasciitis, such as severe pain, swelling, redness, blisters, and skin discoloration.

They may also run blood and imaging tests and take tissue samples to confirm the diagnosis and identify the type of bacteria causing the infection.

Once diagnosed, necrotizing fasciitis is typically treated with a combination of antibiotics, surgery, and supportive care.

In some cases, Aziz says amputation of the affected limb may be necessary to save the patient’s life.

How to reduce your risk of necrotizing fasciitis

As with many diseases and infections, prevention is better than cure. So, what can you do to minimize your risk of contracting necrotizing fasciitis?

Remember, bacteria can be introduced through cuts, burns, insect bites, surgery, or injecting drugs.

“If you have a break in the skin, make sure to keep it clean with soap and water and cover it with a clean bandage until healed,” advises Wojewoda.

While you have a break in the skin, you should also avoid going into the water, and this includes swimming pools, hot tubs, lakes, and oceans.

Aziz says practicing basic hygiene is key.

“Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially before and after touching a wound or changing a bandage,” she advises.

You can also use antiseptic cream on larger wounds to help prevent infection.


Necrotizing fasciitis can be deadly, so if you suspect you have it, you must get it treated right away.

“Necrotizing fasciitis is an extremely dangerous illness that has to be treated quickly and aggressively since it has the potential to be lethal. However, the odds of survival and recovery are higher the earlier the treatment is initiated,” says Wojewoda.

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