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

Author(s): Nisbet M, Briggs S, Ellis-Pegler R, Thomas M, Holland D

Affiliation(s): Infectious Disease Department, Auckland City Hospital, Private Bag 92024, Auckland, New Zealand. mitzin@xtra.co.nz

Publication date & source: 2007-11, J Antimicrob Chemother., 60(5):1097-103. Epub 2007 Sep 17.

BACKGROUND: 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. METHODS: 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. RESULTS: 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. CONCLUSIONS: 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.

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