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Clinical Importance of Infections due to Bacteroides fragilis and Role of Antibiotic Therapy

Br Med J 1974; 3 doi: (Published 27 July 1974) Cite this as: Br Med J 1974;3:225
  1. D. A. Leigh


    Out of 200 infections due to Bacteroides fragilis occurring over a period of three years 133 were related to the intestinal tract, 55 to the genitourinary tract, and the remainder were in bedsores and ulcers; 56% occurred in patients undergoing major intestinal surgery.

    B. fragilis was isolated in pure culture from 56% of the infections. In mixed culture it was most commonly associated with Klebsiella and Enterobacter species. Other anaerobic bacteria were isolated in 9% of the mixed cultures.

    Altogether 131 (65·5%) of the patients recovered without antibiotic therapy or further surgery, but 59 (29·5%) developed complications and 10 (5%) died. The commonest complication was abscess formation, and the incidence was highest with infections associated with malignancy (44%) and lowest with obstetric infections (5%). The mortality was 5% overall but in the presence of bacteraemia it rose to 33%.

    Only 43 patients received appropriate chemotherapy. Clindamycin was the most effective antibiotic, having a recovery rate of 78%, but this rate was little better than in untreated patients (65%). The role of prophylactic antibiotic therapy in preventing bacteroides infection remains to be studied.

    The incidence of the isolation of bacteroides from wound infections after major intestinal surgery rose from 13% in 1970 to 81% in 1973. This increase was due to both the accurate collection and care of specimens while in transit to the laboratory and the use of selective media for the isolation of bacteroides in laboratory culture. The importance of these precautions is emphasized.