Background: Few data are available regarding pneumococcal peritonitis. We studied the clinical characteristics of intra-abdominal infections caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae and its prognosis in relation to antibiotic resistance.
Methods: We reviewed all cases of culture-proved pneumococcal peritonitis. Patients with liver cirrhosis and primary pneumococcal peritonitis were compared with patients with Escherichia coli peritonitis.
Results: Between January 1, 1979, and December 31, 1998, we identified 45 cases of primary pneumococcal peritonitis in patients with cirrhosis and 19 cases of secondary (or tertiary) pneumococcal peritonitis. Patients with cirrhosis and primary pneumococcal peritonitis vs those with primary E coli peritonitis had more frequent community-acquired infection, 73% vs 47%; pneumonia, 36% vs 2%; and bacteremia, 76% vs 33%; and higher attributable mortality (early mortality), 27% vs 9% (P<.05 for all). Secondary (or tertiary) pneumococcal peritonitis was associated with upper or lower gastrointestinal tract diseases; in most cases, the infection appeared after surgery. A hematogenous spread of S pneumoniae from a respiratory tract infection might be the most important origin of peritonitis; also, S pneumoniae might directly reach the gastrointestinal tract favored by endoscopic procedures or hypochlorhydria. There was an increased prevalence of penicillin and cephalosporin resistance up to 30.7% and 17.0%, respectively, although it was not associated with increased mortality rates.
Conclusions: Primary pneumococcal peritonitis in patients with cirrhosis more often spread hematogenously from the respiratory tract and was associated with early mortality. In secondary (and tertiary) pneumococcal peritonitis, a transient gastrointestinal tract colonization and inoculation during surgery might be the most important mechanisms. Current levels of resistance were not associated with increased mortality rates.