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Clin Infect Dis. 2000 Aug;31(2):524-32. Epub 2000 Sep 14.

Human necrobacillosis, with emphasis on Lemierre's syndrome.

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Department of Clinical Microbiology, Viborg Hospital, Viborg, Denmark.


Lemierre's syndrome is the classical presentation of human necrobacillosis. It is characterized by a primary infection in the head in a young, previously healthy person who subsequently develops persistent high fever and disseminated metastatic abscesses, frequently including a septic thrombophlebitis of the internal jugular vein. The main pathogen is Fusobacterium necrophorum, an obligate anaerobic, pleomorphic, gram-negative rod. Clinical microbiologists have a key role in alerting clinicians and advising proper antibiotic treatment when the characteristic microscopic morphology of the pleomorphic F. necrophorum is seen in Gram stains from positive anaerobic cultures of blood and pus. Early diagnosis and prolonged appropriate antibiotic treatment with good anaerobic coverage are crucial to reduce morbidity and mortality. F. necrophorum also causes human necrobacillosis with foci caudal to the head, mainly in elderly patients with high mortality related to age and predisposing diseases, such as cancers of the primary focus.

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