What is the microbiology of the peritonsillar abscess (PTA)?

Updated: May 09, 2018
  • Author: Jeffrey D Suh, MD; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
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  • Several studies have looked at the bacteriology of PTA aspirates. A mixture of aerobic and anaerobic bacteria is commonly isolated. [8, 9] The most common aerobic bacteria are Streptococcus group A (GAS), beta-hemolytic streptococci group C and G, and Staphylococcus aureus.

  • The most common anaerobic bacteria isolated from PTA aspirates is Fusobacterium necrophorum (FN). FN is a gram-negative, obligate anaerobic, pleomorphic rod. It is also the pathogen most commonly associated with Lemierre syndrome. [10, 8]

  • In one study from Denmark, Fusobacterium was the most commonly isolated bacterium (23%), followed by group a streptococci (17%), and groups C and G streptococci (5% total for both groups). [10]

  • Some controversy surrounds the need to obtain cultures after management of a PTA. [11] Gavriel et al did find that patients with anaerobic bacteria growth correlated with higher rates of recurrent PTAs, suggesting that the presence of anaerobic bacteria be a relative indication for tonsillectomy. [9]

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