Etiological agent = Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae
Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae is a small, facultative anaerobic, weakly gram (+) staining rod. It infects and causes disease in a variety of domestic and wild animal species, and is directly zoonotic to people exposed to infected animals.
Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae infection in animals:
Pigs are the reservoir of most importance for veterinary medicine. Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae colonizes the pharynx of pigs and is shed in the feces, urine or oronasal secretions of 30-50% of healthy swine. It can also be isolated from feces, soil, water etc. in an infected animal's environment.
Clinical presentations in pigs:
Pigs are routinely vaccinated against Erysipelothrix in the U.S., although as the prevalence decreases, vaccination may also decrease. This may lead to local outbreaks of erysipelas in naive populations.
Erysipelas in other animals:
Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae infection in humans:
Infection with Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae in humans is called "erysipeloid" and dates back to at least 1870.
Human infections occur primarily via direct contact with infected animals and are, thus, occupational diseases for people such as veterinarians, abattoir workers and fisherman. (In the later case, erysipelas is called"fish handler's disease"- the organism is commonly carried subclinically in the mucoid slime covering the scales of fish.)
Treatment and prevention:
Acha, P.N. and B. Szyfres (Eds.). 1989. Zoonoses and Communicable Diseases Common to Man and Animals. Pan American Health Organization; Washington, D.C.
Benenson, A.S. (Ed.). 1995. Control of Communicable Diseases Manual. American Public Health Assoc.; Washington, D.C.
Brooke, C.J. and T.V. Riley. 1999. Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae: bacteriology, epidemiology and clinical manifestations of an occupational pathogen. J. Med. Microbiol. 48:789-799.
Chastel, C. et al. 1975. Une petite epidemie d'erysipeloide apres depecage d'un globicephale. Nouv. Presse Med. 4:1803-05. (French language publication regarding human infection from contact with an infected whale)
Dilbone, R.P. 1965. Erysipelas suspected in two porpoises. J.A.V.M.A. 147:1085.
Reboli, A.C. and W.E. Farrar. 1995. Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, in: Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases (Eds. G.L. Mandel, J.E. Bennett and R. Dolin), pp. 1894-1896. Churchill Livingston, Inc.; New York, NY.
Timoney, J.F., J.H. Gillespie, F.W. Scott and J.E. Barlough. 1988. Hagan and Brunner's Microbiology and Infectious Diseases of Domestic Animals, pp.. Comstock Publishing Assoc.; Ithaca, NY.
Wood, R.L. 1992. Erysipelas, in: Diseases of Swine (Eds. Leman, A.D. et al.) pp. 475-486. Iowa State University Press; Ames, Iowa.