Capnocytophaga canimorsus: an emerging cause of sepsis, meningitis, and post-splenectomy infection after dog bites

Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2015 Jul;34(7):1271-80. doi: 10.1007/s10096-015-2360-7. Epub 2015 Apr 1.


Newly named in 1989, Capnocytophaga canimorsus is a bacterial pathogen found in the saliva of healthy dogs and cats, and is transmitted to humans principally by dog bites. This review compiled all laboratory-confirmed cases, animal sources, and virulence attributes to describe its epidemiology, clinical features, and pathogenesis. An estimated 484 patients with a median age of 55 years were reported, two-thirds of which were male. The case-fatality rate was about 26%. Its clinical presentations included severe sepsis and fatal septic shock, gangrene of the digits or extremities, high-grade bacteremia, meningitis, endocarditis, and eye infections. Predispositions were prior splenectomy in 59 patients and alcoholism in 58 patients. Dog bites before illness occurred in 60%; additionally, in 27%, there were scratches, licking, or other contact with dogs or cats. Patients with meningitis showed more advanced ages, higher male preponderance, lower mortality, and longer incubation periods after dog bites than patients with sepsis (p < 0.05). Patients with prior splenectomy presented more frequently with high-grade bacteremia than patients with intact spleens (p < 0.05). The organism possesses virulence attributes of catalase and sialidase production, gliding motility, cytotoxin production, and resistance to killing by serum complement due to its unique lipopolysaccharide. Penicillin is the drug of choice, but some practitioners prefer third-generation cephalosporins or beta-lactamase inhibitor combinations. C. canimorsus has emerged as a leading cause of sepsis, particularly post-splenectomy sepsis, and meningitis after dog bites.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism
  • Animals
  • Bacteremia / diagnosis
  • Bacteremia / epidemiology
  • Bacteremia / microbiology
  • Bites and Stings
  • Capnocytophaga*
  • Cats
  • Disease Reservoirs / microbiology
  • Dogs
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Meningitis, Bacterial / diagnosis
  • Meningitis, Bacterial / epidemiology
  • Meningitis, Bacterial / microbiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications / microbiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Sepsis / diagnosis
  • Sepsis / epidemiology
  • Sepsis / microbiology*
  • Spleen
  • Splenectomy / adverse effects
  • Virulence Factors


  • Virulence Factors