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J Antimicrob Chemother. 2007 Nov;60(5):1097-103. Epub 2007 Sep 17.

Propionibacterium acnes: an under-appreciated cause of post-neurosurgical infection.

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Infectious Disease Department, Auckland City Hospital, Private Bag 92024, Auckland, New Zealand.



Propionibacterium acnes is increasingly recognized as a cause of post-neurosurgical infection. This review of patients with P. acnes neurosurgical infection was carried out in order to determine clinical characteristics and outcomes in relation to duration of antimicrobial treatment.


We retrospectively reviewed the charts of consecutive patients with P. acnes isolated from neurosurgical specimens from 1 January 1999 to 30 June 2005. We defined P. acnes neurosurgical infection as isolation of P. acnes alone from a sterile neurosurgical site in a patient who clinically improved following treatment with an appropriate antibiotic.


We identified 28 patients with definite P. acnes neurosurgical infection; median age 49 years (range 23-77); 15 (54%) male. All patients had prior neurosurgical procedures: 27 (96%) post-craniotomy. The median time from surgery to presentation was 54 days (range 12-1,578). Eighteen out of 28 (64%) patients who met the definition of neurosurgical infection had Gram-positive bacilli seen in at least one surgical specimen compared with only 2/56 (4%) patients who did not meet the definition (P < 0.0001). Intravenous benzyl penicillin +/- oral penicillin VK was the most common treatment. The median duration of antibiotic treatment for intracranial infection was 29 days. Five of nine patients who had extracranial bone-flap-associated infection had <or=7 days of intravenous treatment and were cured. Two patients had relapse or reinfection.


P. acnes neurosurgical infection often presents in an indolent fashion. Gram-positive bacilli on Gram stain should not be discounted as a contaminant in neurosurgical specimens. Associated bone flaps should be removed. Intravenous benzyl penicillin +/- oral penicillin VK remains effective treatment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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