Jihad Bishara, MD, Avivit Golan-Cohen, MD, Eyal Robenshtok, MD, Leonard Leibovici, MD and Silvio Pitlik, MD
Background: Erysipelas is a skin infection generally caused by group A streptococci. Although penicillin is the drug of choice, some physicians tend to treat erysipelas with antibiotics other than penicillin.
Objectives: To define the pattern of antibiotic use, factors affecting antibiotic selection, and outcome of patients treated with penicillin versus those treated with other antimicrobial agents.
Methods: A retrospective review of charts of adult patients with discharge diagnosis of erysipelas was conducted for the years 1993-1996.
Results: The study group comprised 365 patients (median age 67 years). In 76% of the cases infection involved the leg/s. Predisposing condition/s were present in 82% of cases. Microorganisms were isolated from blood cultures in only 6 of 176 cases (3%), and Streptococcus spp. was recovered in four of these six patients. Cultures from skin specimens were positive in 3 of 23 cases. Penicillin alone was given to 164 patients (45%). Other antibiotics were more commonly used in the second half of the study period (P < 0.0001) in patients with underlying conditions (P = 0.06) and in those hospitalized in the dermatology ward (P< 0.0001). Hospitalization was significantly shorter in the penicillin group (P= 0.004). There were no in-hospital deaths.
Conclusions: We found no advantage in using antibiotics other than penicillin for treating erysipelas. The low yield of skin and blood cultures and their marginal impact on management, as well as the excellent outcome suggest that this infection can probably be treated empirically on an outpatient basis.