Logo of yjbmLink to Publisher's site
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.


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.

Full text

Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (750K), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. Links to PubMed are also available for Selected References.

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Doyle A, Beigi B, Early A, Blake A, Eustace P, Hone R. Adherence of bacteria to intraocular lenses: a prospective study. Br J Ophthalmol. 1995 Apr;79(4):347–349. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Lewis JF, Abramson JH. Endocarditis due to Propionibacterium acnes. Am J Clin Pathol. 1980 Nov;74(5):690–696. [PubMed]
  • Günthard H, Hany A, Turina M, Wüst J. Propionibacterium acnes as a cause of aggressive aortic valve endocarditis and importance of tissue grinding: case report and review. J Clin Microbiol. 1994 Dec;32(12):3043–3045. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Horner SM, Sturridge MF, Swanton RH. Propionibacterium acnes causing an aortic root abscess. Br Heart J. 1992 Aug;68(2):218–220. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Richards J, Ingham HR, Hickman J, Crawford PJ, Sengupta RP, Mendelow AD. Focal infections of the central nervous system due to Propionibacterium acnes. J Infect. 1989 May;18(3):279–282. [PubMed]
  • Ramos JM, Esteban J, Soriano F. Isolation of Propionibacterium acnes from central nervous system infections. Anaerobe. 1995 Feb;1(1):17–20. [PubMed]
  • Vafidis G. Propionibacterium acnes endophthalmitis. Br J Ophthalmol. 1991 Dec;75(12):706–706. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Yocum RC, McArthur J, Petty BG, Diehl AM, Moench TR. Septic arthritis caused by Propionibacterium acnes. JAMA. 1982 Oct 8;248(14):1740–1741. [PubMed]
  • Sulkowski MS, Abolnik IZ, Morris EI, Granger DL. Infectious arthritis due to Propionibacterium acnes in a prosthetic joint. Clin Infect Dis. 1994 Jul;19(1):224–225. [PubMed]
  • Lipkin AF, Mazer TM, Duncan NO, 3rd, Parke RB., Jr Propionibacterium acnes: a neglected head and neck pathogen. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1987 Nov;97(5):510–513. [PubMed]
  • Wüst J, Hardegger U. Comparison of the E test and a reference agar dilution method for susceptibility testing of anaerobic bacteria. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 1992 Dec;11(12):1169–1173. [PubMed]
  • Günthard H, Hany A, Turina M, Wüst J. Propionibacterium acnes as a cause of aggressive aortic valve endocarditis and importance of tissue grinding: case report and review. J Clin Microbiol. 1994 Dec;32(12):3043–3045. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Brook I, Frazier EH. Infections caused by Propionibacterium species. Rev Infect Dis. 1991 Sep-Oct;13(5):819–822. [PubMed]

Articles from The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine are provided here courtesy of Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine


Save items

Related citations in PubMed

See reviews...See all...

Cited by other articles in PMC

See all...


  • MedGen
    Related information in MedGen
  • PubMed
    PubMed citations for these articles
  • Taxonomy
    Taxonomy records associated with the current articles through taxonomic information on related molecular database records (Nucleotide, Protein, Gene, SNP, Structure).
  • Taxonomy Tree
    Taxonomy Tree

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...