Animal Bite-associated Infections

Microbiology and Treatment

Nicole Thomas; Itzhak Brook


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

In This Article

Clinical Findings/Infectious Complications

Clinical signs for development of bite-associated infection may be subtle, with increased pain and tenderness around the wound as the first indication. Injuries may initially have edema, erythema, ecchymosis and even serosanguinous drainage, but generally begin to improve within 2 days of the bite. Further swelling, erythema, red streaking (lymphangitis) and warmth as well as local lymphadenopathy are indicators of a progressive infection. Fever is often a late finding, as is purulent drainage.

The hand is the most likely site to develop infection and long-term disability. It is reported that up to 40% of hand bites become infected.[3] This is due to the complex anatomy and superficial location of the bones, joints and tendons.

Bite wounds may develop into deeper-seated infections, and may disseminate systemically. In addition to bite location and depth, host factors such as immunodeficiency or immunocompromised status, diabetes, peripheral vascular disease and alcohol abuse may contribute to complications such as soft tissue or muscle abscesses, osteomyelitis, septic arthritis, tenosynovitis, bacteremia/sepsis, endocarditis and even intracranial abscess.[4,5]


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