Animal Bite-associated Infections

Microbiology and Treatment

Nicole Thomas; Itzhak Brook


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

In This Article

Expert Commentary

Bite wounds are ubiquitous throughout the world. The majority of bites are mild, with home care being the predominant means of treatment. Unfortunately, failure to adequately clean bite wounds, along with delayed medical care, often leads to infection. The majority of bites are still from dogs, although, as humans continue to move into the remote territories of wild animals such as bears and sharks, encounters and often attacks by these animals become more frequent.

As we continue to improve methods in trauma care, survival from major animal attacks has increased. This has resulted in a higher rate of infection (along with the evaluation of the oral microbiology of biting animals), but has also given scientists the opportunity to better prevent and, if needed, treat infected bite wounds.

This article underscores the importance of assessing the microbiology of wounds by obtaining cultures when treating animal bites. Owing to the unique oral flora of each biting animal or human, atypical infections can arise at bite wounds. Unexpected environmental organisms (i.e., from soil, dust or water) can also enter the wound, adding to the complexity of the infecting flora. In addition, antimicrobial susceptibility may also vary in the wound. Microbiological cultures and collaboration between the microbiology laboratory and clinicians are therefore required.

Improved methods of collection, transportation and cultivation have increased the rate of recovery of anaerobes, and have highlighted their importance in bite wound infections. However, there is still a need to continue to educate medical providers about the importance of obtaining anaerobic cultures as well as how to properly collect and transport them to the microbiology laboratory.

There is still much to be learned about bite infections. As new and improved techniques for identification and susceptibility testing of bacterial pathogens are developed it is hopeful that the care of wound infection will improve and the rate of complications will decline.


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