Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome after infection with group A streptococcus

Mayo Clin Proc. 2001 Nov;76(11):1167-70. doi: 10.4065/76.11.1167.


We report a case of Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome associated with group A streptococcus (GAS) toxic shock syndrome in a previously healthy man. The patient presented with neck pain and fevers of 2 days' duration. Computed tomography of the neck revealed a mass in the retropharyngeal space, suggesting an abscess. Despite prompt treatment with appropriate antibiotics, the patient experienced a fulminant course and died within 8 hours of presentation. Antemortem blood cultures grew GAS positive for exotoxins A, B, and C. Postmortem examination revealed bilateral adrenal hemorrhage, consistent with Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome. Immunohistochemical analysis of the adrenal glands revealed the presence of GAS antigens. However, no disseminated intravascular coagulation was evident. This case demonstrates that adrenal hemorrhage can occur without associated coagulopathy and may result directly from the action of bacterial toxins.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Glands / pathology
  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Shock, Septic / complications*
  • Streptococcal Infections / complications*
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / isolation & purification*
  • Waterhouse-Friderichsen Syndrome / microbiology*
  • Waterhouse-Friderichsen Syndrome / physiopathology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents