Soil-Related Bacterial and Fungal Infections

Dennis J. Baumgardner, MD


J Am Board Fam Med. 2012;25(5):734-744. 

In This Article


A variety of bacterial and fungal microorganisms are capable of departing a soil environment to cause serious focal or systemic infection. Specific evolved virulence factors or the ability to grow in diverse, sometimes harsh, microenvironments may promote human infection. Questions regarding travel and soil exposure, by direct contact or ingestion, inoculation, or dust or aerosol inhalation, should be included in the history of any patient with syndromes consistent with tetanus, botulism or anthrax, traumatic wounds, recalcitrant skin lesions, gastroenteritis, and nonresponsive, overwhelming, or chronic pneumonia. Prompt recognition of tetanus and botulism, supportive intensive care, tetanus immune globulin or botulism antitoxin therapy, respectively, and adjunctive antibiotic therapy may significantly improve outcomes in affected patients. Prompt, directed antimicrobial therapy for anthrax, wound infection, and systemic fungal disease may be life-changing. Bacillus and Listeria gastroenteritis is usually self-limited in immunocompetent people, but investigation of their source(s) may be an important public health measure.