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Clin Microbiol Rev. 1993 Oct;6(4):324-38.

Bacillus cereus and related species.

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  • Public Health Laboratory Service, Dulwich Hospital, London, United Kingdom.


Bacillus cereus is a gram-positive aerobic or facultatively anaerobic spore-forming rod. It is a cause of food poisoning, which is frequently associated with the consumption of rice-based dishes. The organism produces an emetic or diarrheal syndrome induced by an emetic toxin and enterotoxin, respectively. Other toxins are produced during growth, including phospholipases, proteases, and hemolysins, one of which, cereolysin, is a thiol-activated hemolysin. These toxins may contribute to the pathogenicity of B. cereus in nongastrointestinal disease. B. cereus isolated from clinical material other than feces or vomitus was commonly dismissed as a contaminant, but increasingly it is being recognized as a species with pathogenic potential. It is now recognized as an infrequent cause of serious nongastrointestinal infection, particularly in drug addicts, the immunosuppressed, neonates, and postsurgical patients, especially when prosthetic implants such as ventricular shunts are inserted. Ocular infections are the commonest types of severe infection, including endophthalmitis, panophthalmitis, and keratitis, usually with the characteristic formation of corneal ring abscesses. Even with prompt surgical and antimicrobial agent treatment, enucleation of the eye and blindness are common sequelae. Septicemia, meningitis, endocarditis, osteomyelitis, and surgical and traumatic wound infections are other manifestations of severe disease. B. cereus produces beta-lactamases, unlike Bacillus anthracis, and so is resistant to beta-lactam antibiotics; it is usually susceptible to treatment with clindamycin, vancomycin, gentamicin, chloramphenicol, and erythromycin. Simultaneous therapy via multiple routes may be required.

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