Corynebacterium pyogenes—a pathogen in man

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THE number of published reports concerning clinical infections produced by microorganisms considered to be nonpathogenic in man increases each year. Most of the cases are opportunistic infections in patients whose immune mechanisms have been altered by disease or treatment. In general, we believe that many of these “rare” organisms are probably not so infrequent in man as they have been thought to be. In clinical medicine, many of the diseases that in the past were considered to be rare are at the present time not so uncommon. In most cases, the incidence of a disease has not actually increased, but the number of diagnoses has increased because of improved methods of detection.

The history of Corynebacterium pyogenes as an agent capable of producing disease in man dates from 1939 and the reports1, 2 of the case of a 64-year old shepherd who succumbed to systemic infection due to Corynebacterium pyogenes after an initial superficial abscess caused by that organism (Table 1).

Eight years later, in 1947, Ballard, Upsher, and Seely3 reported the case of a 37-year-old truck driver who had frostbite of both feet, which eventually required amputation of several toes. A septic syndrome developed and a pure culture of Corynebacterium pyogenes was isolated from his blood. Later the same bacteria were isolated from draining sinuses of his feet. The septicemia responded rapidly to sulfanilamide, but the lesions on the feet never regressed, and Corynebacterium pyogenes was repeatedly grown from exudates as long as 18 months after the patient was . . .



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