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Fusobacterium necrophorum-induced sepsis: an unusual case of Lemierre's syndrome

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Classical Lemierre's syndrome is characterized by severe sepsis with metastatic abscess formation in young, previously fit people from a primary head or neck focus. The causative organisms are the anaerobic fusobacteria, most commonly Fusobacterium necrophorum. We describe the evaluation, therapeutic interventions and management of a patient with Lemierre's syndrome who presented in septic shock with multiple organ dysfunction. The patient required immediate interventions including endotracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation, fluid resuscitation, inotropic support, bilateral thoracostomy tube drainage of empyemata and antimicrobial therapy. The unexpected isolation of Fusobacterium necrophorum from blood cultures and empyema fluid necessitated a change of antibiotic regime to provide anaerobic cover. The patient required 4 weeks of intensive support including prolonged antimicrobial therapy, and after a further 2 weeks was discharged home from hospital. This case highlights the need to raise the awareness of ‘the forgotten disease’: Lemierre's syndrome. Its diagnosis may, as in this case, be confounded by a lack of symptoms of pharyngitis at the time of presentation, and end-organ dysfunction associated with severe sepsis, possibly suggesting an alternative source of infection. As appropriate antibiotics reduce mortality dramatically, clinicians need to be alert to Lemierre's syndrome and include it in the differential diagnosis in young but otherwise healthy patients presenting with severe sepsis.
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Keywords: Anaerobic bacteria; intensive care; sepsis

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine &, Department of Microbiology, Royal Liverpool University Hospital, Liverpool, UK

Publication date: 2005-04-01

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