Injectional anthrax - New presentation of an old disease

T. Berger, M. Kassirer, A. A. Aran

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Bacillus anthracis infection (anthrax) has three distinct clinical presentations depending on the route of exposure: cutaneous, gastrointestinal and inhalational anthrax. Each of these can lead to secondary bacteraemia and anthrax meningitis. Since 2009, anthrax has emerged among heroin users in Europe, presenting a novel clinical manifestation, ’injectional anthrax’, which has been attributed to contaminated heroin distributed throughout Europe; before 2009 only one case was reported. During 2012 and 2013, new cases of injectional anthrax were diagnosed in Denmark, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Here we present a comprehensive review of the literature and information derived from different reporting systems until 31 December 2013. Overall 70 confirmed cases were reported, with 26 fatalities (37% case fatality rate).The latest two confirmed cases occurred in March 2013. Thirteen case reports have been published, describing 18 confirmed cases. Sixteen of these presented as a severe soft tissue infection that differed clinically from cutaneous anthrax, lacked the characteristic epidemiological history of animal contact and ten cases required complimentary surgical debridement. These unfamiliar characteristics have led to delays of three to 12 days in diagnosis, inadequate treatment and a high fatality rate. Clinicians’ awareness of this recently described clinical entity is key for early and successful management of patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1
JournalEurosurveillance
Volume19
Issue number32
DOIs
StatePublished - 14 Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes

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