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Yale J Biol Med. 1996 Nov-Dec; 69(6): 477–482.
PMCID: PMC2589039

Severe infections caused by Propionibacterium acnes: an underestimated pathogen in late postoperative infections.

Abstract

Propionibacterium acnes belongs to the cutaneous flora of humans and is rarely considered a pathogen in human diseases. It is a frequent contaminant in blood cultures; however, in some patients it has been identified as the causative agent of life-threatening infections. Within the last years we have observed an abrupt increase in severe P. acnes infections which prompted us to study in detail the clinical and microbiological features, risk factors, and outcomes of these cases. In a retrospective review of microbiological records of 905 Propionibacterium isolates from a five-year period (1990-95), 70 were identified from 20 patients with clinical and microbiological evidence of a P. acnes infection. The clinical syndromes included endocarditis (7 patients), post-craniotomy infections (6 patients), arthritis and spondylodiscitis (4 patients), endophthalmitis (2 patients) and pansinusitis (1 patient). The predominant predisposing conditions were previous surgery preceding the infection from 2 weeks to 4 years and implantation of foreign bodies such as prosthetic heart valves, intraocular lenses and ventriculo-peritoneal shunts. Therapy consisted of intravenous antibiotics in all cases and surgical procedures to remove infected tissue in eighteen patients. The outcome was favorable in sixteen patients (80 percent) who had a complete recovery. These data confirm the pathogenic potential of P. acnes in late post-surgical infections, in particular after implantation of a foreign body, and suggest a combined therapeutic approach with intravenous antibiotics and surgical removal of the infected tissue.

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Selected References

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