Animal Bite-associated Infections

Microbiology and Treatment

Nicole Thomas; Itzhak Brook


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

In This Article

Marine Organism Bites

Sharks are the most reported marine animal to bite humans, although there have been reports of bites from fish such as barracuda and eels. Infecting organisms are usually specific to the marine environment, and therapy should be tailored to the organism. There is a paucity of published data on shark bite injuries, but Lentz et al. published a report on 96 episodes of shark attack. The most common organisms associated with these bites were Vibrio spp. (especially Vibrio vulnificus, Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio alginolyticus) and contamination often led to soft tissue infection and necrosis.[89] Buck et al. looked at cultures of great white shark teeth and, in addition, to the Vibrio species, Pseudomonas spp., Staphylococcus, Citrobacter and Micrococcus species were isolated.[90] Unfortunately, they did not culture for anaerobic organisms. Owing to infection potential, early treatment has been indicated for all shark bites, even when minor.

Barracuda bites are associated with a shearing type injury, whereas eels cause severe lacerations or puncture wounds.[91,92] The risk of infection from eel injuries is unclear. Erickson et al. reported three superficial wounds that all healed uneventfully without secondary infection. However, each patient received prophylactic antibiotics at the initial presentation.[93] Regardless of whether prophylactic antibiotics are given, any early signs of invasive wound infection should be treated promptly. Ciprofloxacin, cefuroxime, tetracycline or trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole are often chosen for these wounds due to the concern for infection with Vibrio and Pseudomonas species.[94]


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