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Tue, Oct 06

When a genetic ID card is the difference between life and death

It starts with a fever, a cough, red eyes, the kind of symptoms that might accompany a bad cold. Then, everything gets much worse. A rash appears on the skin, with target-like dots that blister and burst. Lips crust and bleed. Eyes become inflamed. The throat develops such painful ulcers that swallowing becomes impossible. Skin starts peeling off in sheets. The damage is so extensive that patients typically end up in burn wards, in excruciating pain, unable to eat, urinate, or open their eyes. Many beg to die; some do.

In its milder forms, this condition is called Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS). If more than a third of a person’s skin peels off, it becomes known as toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN). Either way, “it’s the worst thing I’ve seen in 30 years in clinical medicine,” says Teri Manolio at the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Read more from The Atlantic here.