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Erysipelothrix infection

Annette C Reboli, MD
Section Editor
Daniel J Sexton, MD
Deputy Editor
Elinor L Baron, MD, DTMH


Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae is a pleomorphic, non–spore forming, gram-positive bacillus capable of causing self-limited soft tissue infection or serious systemic infection. E. rhusiopathiae is widespread in nature around the world and also infects domestic and marine animals; it is found in sheep, horses, cattle, chickens, turkeys, crabs, fish, dogs, and cats [1]. The risk may be highest from swine exposure because of the large number of exposed farmers.

Infection in humans is usually due to occupational exposure. Thus, slaughterhouse workers, butchers, fishermen, aquarium workers, farmers, and veterinarians are at risk for infection with E. rhusiopathiae [2-5].


Little is known about the pathogenesis of human E. rhusiopathiae infection. The following observations have been made in vitro and in animal studies:

E. rhusiopathiae is a virulent organism with a capsule that resists phagocytosis and may contribute to intracellular survival (in the absence of opsonization with specific antibody) [6,7].

Intracellular survival of virulent organisms in macrophages is associated with reduced stimulation of the oxidative respiratory burst [7].

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Aug 31, 2017.
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