Erysipelas and cellulitis: clinical and microbiological spectrum in an Italian tertiary care hospital

J Infect. 2005 Dec;51(5):383-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jinf.2004.12.010.


Patients hospitalized in the authors' institution for erysipelas or cellulitis between January 1995 and December 2002 were included in this retrospective review. Two hundred cases of soft tissue infections were hospitalized during the study period. The mean age of the patients was 58 years. The most commonly involved site was the leg (66%), followed by the arm (24%) and face (6%). Most patients (71%) had a recognized risk factor for soft tissue infection. Fever was present in 71% of cases, with a mean duration of 3 days. Blood cultures were positive in 3 out of 141 (2%) cases, whereas cutaneous swabs were positive in 73 out of 92 (79%) cases. On admission, white blood cells counts (WBC), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), and C-reactive protein (CRP) levels were elevated above normal levels in 100 out of 191 (50%) cases, 151 out of 176 (85%) cases, and 150 out of 154 (97%) cases, respectively. Patients with a hospital stay of more than 10 days had significantly higher CRP and ESR values than patients hospitalized for 10 days or less (P<0.01). A single antibiotic was used as treatment in 115 cases, whereas in the remaining 85 cases a combination of two antibiotics was administered. The most commonly used antibiotics were amoxicillin-clavulanic acid as single agent and penicillin with clindamycin as combination therapy. The mean duration of hospitalization was 7 days for patients treated with a single antibiotic and 11 days for patients treated with an antibiotic combination. A recurrence of infection occurred in 34 (17%) patients. Soft tissue infections are common and have a high degree of morbidity and require prolonged hospitalization and antibiotic treatment. Microbiological diagnosis is difficult and treatment is based on empiric evidence. ESR and CPR levels on admission may predict the severity of the disease and duration of hospitalization.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Amoxicillin-Potassium Clavulanate Combination / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Blood Sedimentation
  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis
  • Cellulitis / diagnosis
  • Cellulitis / drug therapy*
  • Cellulitis / microbiology*
  • Clindamycin / therapeutic use
  • Erysipelas / diagnosis
  • Erysipelas / drug therapy*
  • Erysipelas / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Length of Stay
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Penicillins / therapeutic use
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Penicillins
  • Clindamycin
  • Amoxicillin-Potassium Clavulanate Combination
  • C-Reactive Protein