What infections occur in submersion injuries/drowning?

Updated: Jun 19, 2019
  • Author: G Patricia Cantwell, MD, FCCM; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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Infection in the sinuses, lungs, and CNS, as well as other less common sites, may result from unusual soil and waterborne bacteria, amebas, and fungi, including Pseudallescheria boydii and Scedosporium apiospermum,Naegleria, Balamuthia, as well as Burkholderia and Aeromonas organisms, and newly discovered human pathogens (Francisella philomiragia). [8, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61] These infections are usually insidious in onset, typically occurring more than 30 days after the initial submersion injury. P boydii‒complex infections are difficult to treat and are often fatal. [57, 62, 63]

Several investigators have suggested that the finding of evidence of seawater organisms, such as bioluminescent bacteria and plankton DNA, or normal inhabitants of the trachea in the bloodstream may be utilized as an additional indicator to support the conclusion of death by drowning in bodies discovered in aquatic environments. [64, 65]

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