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Clin Microbiol Rev. 2010 Apr;23(2):382-98. doi: 10.1128/CMR.00073-09.

Bacillus cereus, a volatile human pathogen.

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  • Division of Infectious Diseases, Box 1090, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, One Gustave L. Levy Place, New York, NY 10029, USA. edward.bottone@mssm.edu


Bacillus cereus is a Gram-positive aerobic or facultatively anaerobic, motile, spore-forming, rod-shaped bacterium that is widely distributed environmentally. While B. cereus is associated mainly with food poisoning, it is being increasingly reported to be a cause of serious and potentially fatal non-gastrointestinal-tract infections. The pathogenicity of B. cereus, whether intestinal or nonintestinal, is intimately associated with the production of tissue-destructive exoenzymes. Among these secreted toxins are four hemolysins, three distinct phospholipases, an emesis-inducing toxin, and proteases. The major hurdle in evaluating B. cereus when isolated from a clinical specimen is overcoming its stigma as an insignificant contaminant. Outside its notoriety in association with food poisoning and severe eye infections, this bacterium has been incriminated in a multitude of other clinical conditions such as anthrax-like progressive pneumonia, fulminant sepsis, and devastating central nervous system infections, particularly in immunosuppressed individuals, intravenous drug abusers, and neonates. Its role in nosocomial acquired bacteremia and wound infections in postsurgical patients has also been well defined, especially when intravascular devices such as catheters are inserted. Primary cutaneous infections mimicking clostridial gas gangrene induced subsequent to trauma have also been well documented. B. cereus produces a potent beta-lactamase conferring marked resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics. Antimicrobials noted to be effective in the empirical management of a B. cereus infection while awaiting antimicrobial susceptibility results for the isolate include ciprofloxacin and vancomycin.

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