Brigham Young English Professor David Cowles was in stable condition at a California hospital Friday after being afflicted with rare flesh-eating bacteria.

Cowles first noticed a scratch on his hand during the holiday weekend. Within a few days, the disease had spread throughout his body, attacking the covering of his muscles.On Tuesday, Cowles, 40, was taken to Whittier Presbyterian Community Hospital, where he was placed in a pressurized, hyperbolic chamber.

Doctors hope the highly oxygenated air in the tank will help kill the bacteria.

Doctors believe Cowles was infected with a strain of the strep bacteria, perhaps through the scratch on his hand. A hospital spokesman said the bacteria is so common it would be impossible to determine where Cowles contracted the infection.

The deadly bacteria have claimed more than a dozen victims in England during the past year. Physicians have seen isolated cases of the bacteria killing people in the United States during the past few months.