A systematic review of bacteremias in cellulitis and erysipelas

J Infect. 2012 Feb;64(2):148-55. doi: 10.1016/j.jinf.2011.11.004. Epub 2011 Nov 11.


Objectives: Because of the difficulty of obtaining bacterial cultures from patients with cellulitis and erysipelas, the microbiology of these common infections remains incompletely defined. Given the emergence of community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA) over the past decade the proportion of infections due to S. aureus has become particularly relevant.

Methods: OVID was used to search Medline using the focused subject headings "cellulitis", "erysipelas" and "soft tissue infections". All references that involved adult patients with cellulitis or erysipelas and reported associated bacteremias and specific pathogens were included in the review.

Results: For erysipelas, 4.6% of 607 patients had positive blood cultures, of which 46% were Streptococcus pyogenes, 29% were other β-hemolytic streptococci, 14% were Staphylococcus aureus, and 11% were Gram-negative organisms. For cellulitis, 7.9% of 1578 patients had positive blood cultures of which 19% were Streptococcus pyogenes, 38% were other β-hemolytic streptococci, 14% were Staphylococcus aureus, and 28% were Gram-negative organisms.

Conclusions: Although the strength of our conclusions are somewhat limited by the heterogeneity of included cases, our results support the traditional view that cellulitis and erysipelas are primarily due to streptococcal species, with a smaller proportion due to S. aureus. Our results also argue against the current distinction between cellulitis and erysipelas in terms of the relative proportion of infections due to S. aureus.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteremia* / microbiology
  • Cellulitis / microbiology*
  • Erysipelas / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology
  • Staphylococcus aureus / pathogenicity
  • Streptococcal Infections / microbiology
  • Streptococcus / pathogenicity