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Clin Microbiol Rev. 1990 Oct;3(4):293-320.

Branhamella catarrhalis: an organism gaining respect as a pathogen.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee 53226.


Branhamella catarrhalis was formerly regarded as a common, essentially harmless inhabitant of the pharynx. This misapprehension was caused, in part, by confusion with another pharyngeal resident, Neisseria cinerea. The two organisms can now be differentiated by the positive reactions of B. catarrhalis in tests for nitrate reduction and hydrolysis of tributyrin and DNase. B. catarrhalis is currently recognized as the third most frequent cause of acute otitis media and acute sinusitis in young children. It often causes acute exacerbations of chronic bronchopulmonary disease in older or immunocompromised adults and is incriminated occasionally in meningitis, endocarditis, bacteremia, conjunctivitis, keratitis, and urogenital infections. Virulence-associated factors, such as pili, capsules, outer membrane vesicles, iron acquisition proteins, histamine-synthesizing ability, resistance to the bactericidal action of normal human serum, and binding to the C1q complement component, have been identified in some strains. beta-Lactamase producing strains, first detected in 1976, have risen to approximately 75% worldwide. Thus far, however, practically all American strains of B. catarrhalis remain susceptible to alternative antibiotics. A possible selective advantage of recent isolates is their reportedly heightened tendency for adherence to oropharyngeal cells from patients with chronic bronchopulmonary disease.

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