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Pasteurella infections

David J Weber, MD, MPH
Sheldon L Kaplan, MD
Section Editors
Stephen B Calderwood, MD
Morven S Edwards, MD
Deputy Editor
Allyson Bloom, MD


Pasteurella are small gram-negative coccobacilli that are primarily commensals or pathogens of animals. However, these organisms can cause a variety of infections in humans, usually as a result of cat scratches, or cat or dog bites or licks.

Pasteurella infections will be reviewed here. Other infections related to dog and cat bites or scratches are discussed separately. (See "Soft tissue infections due to dog and cat bites" and "Clinical manifestations and initial management of animal and human bites" and "Zoonoses from dogs" and "Zoonoses from cats".)


The members of the genus Pasteurella are small, nonmotile, nonspore-forming, gram-negative organisms. In Gram-stained specimens, they generally appear as a single bacillus, often with bipolar staining, but may also be seen in pairs or short chains (picture 1) [1].

Pasteurella spp are aerobic, facultatively anaerobic, and grow well at 37ºC on 5 percent sheep blood (the preferred culture medium), chocolate, or Mueller-Hinton agar; growth is uncommon on MacConkey's agar. Colonies of Pasteurella spp are 1 to 2 mm in diameter after 24 hours of growth at 37ºC and are opaque and grayish [2]. A slight greening underneath the colonies may be noted. Most strains recovered from clinical specimens are catalase, oxidase, indole, sucrose, and decarboxylate ornithine-positive. The indole-positive species exhibit a mouse-like odor. Media containing vancomycin, clindamycin, and/or amikacin have been used to select for Pasteurella [1]. Potential bacterial virulence factors include the capsule, lipopolysaccharide, sialidases, hyaluronidase, surface adhesins, iron acquisition proteins [3], and the Pasteurella multocida toxin [4].

Human infections have been reported from P. multocida (the most common pathogen and type species for the genus, which includes P. multocida subsp multocida, P. multocida subsp septica, and P. multocida subsp gallicida), Pasteurella canis, Pasteurella dagmatis, and Pasteurella stomatis [2,5]. All are associated with dogs and cats. P. multocida isolates are classified based on a combination of capsular polysaccharide serotyping, which distinguishes isolates into one of five capsular serogroups (ie, A, B, D, E, and F); serotypes A and D account for most human disease [6]. Related species include Pasteurella aerogenes, Pasteurella bettyae, Pasteurella caballi, and Pasteurella pneumotropica [1]. Polymerase chain reaction plus sequence-based ribotyping analysis using universal primers for the 16sRNA gene or rpoB gene sequencing have now superseded phenotypic methods for the identification, characterization, and differentiation of P. multocida and other Pasteurella spp [2,6]. Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time-of-flight mass spectrometry can also be used for accurate identification [2]. The complete genome sequence of an avian clone of P. multocida [7] and the type strain P. multocida subsp multocida ATCC 43137 have been determined [7].

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Nov 30, 2016.
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