Animal Bite-associated Infections

Microbiology and Treatment

Nicole Thomas; Itzhak Brook


Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2011;9(2):215-226. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Human and animal bites may lead to serious infection. The organisms involved tend to originate from the oral cavity of the offending biter, as well as the environment where the injury occurred. A variety of aerobic as well as anaerobic organisms have been isolated from bite wounds, with infection ranging from localized cellulitis to systemic dissemination, leading to severe disease ranging from abscess to bone and joint infection, to endocarditis and brain abscess. Immediate wound management, including recognition of the most commonly associated infectious pathogens, and judicious use of empiric antibiotics are crucial in providing the best care after a bite. Here, we discuss the common animal bite associated infections, and provide the most up to date information regarding their management.


Adults and children frequently interact with animals, and are subsequently at risk of being bitten. Animal bites are a public health issue, with up to 2% of the population being bitten each year. The majority of these are due to dogs, with up to 4.7 million Americans sustaining injury and approximately 800,000 requiring some form of medical care each year.[201] In addition to severe injury, there is a potential risk of infection. This risk differs among various animal species, and is dependent on the type of bite as well as the pathogenicity of the animal's oral flora. Infecting organisms may also arise from human skin or the environment.

Multiple studies have evaluated the broad range of pathogens isolated from various human and animal bite infections. In addition to well-recognized aerobic organisms, improved methods of collection and identification have increased the recovery of anaerobic organisms, and have illustrated their importance in bite wound infections.[1,2] This article will discuss the pathogens associated with human and animal bite wound infection and their management.


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