Arcanobacterium haemolyticum

Arcanobacterium haemolyticum

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Bacteria
Phylum: Actinobacteria
Class: Actinobacteria
Order: Actinomycetales
Family: Actinomycetaceae
Genus: Arcanobacterium
Species: haemolyticum

Arcanobacterium haemolyticum, formerly known as Corynebacterium hæmolyticum, is a Gram-positive bacillus, catalase-negative, aerobic, beta-haemolytic, nonmotile, normal flora of pharynx, but may cause head and neck infections, pharyngitis and sinusitis.[1]


It was first described by MacClean et al. in 1946 from US servicemen and peoples of the South Pacific suffering from sore throat.[2] Due to is resemblance to another type of bacteria, Corynebacterium, A. haemolyticum was initially classified as C. pyogenes subspecies hominus.[3] Controversies regarding classification were resolved in 1982 when a new genus, Arcanobacterium (enigmatic bacterium) was created based on its peptidoglycan, fatty acid, and DNA characteristics.

Since its initial description, the spectrum of diseases caused by A. haemolyticum has been expanded to include carbon dioxide.



A. haemolyticum infection is most common in 15- to 25-year-old persons and manifests as exudative pharyngitis and/or tonsillitis accompanied by cervical lymphadenopathy. Symptoms look like those of β-hemolytic streptococci or viral infection. A rash of the chest and of the abdomen, neck, or extremities is seen in 20% to 25% of cases enhancing the risk of diagnostic error as streptococcal infection or penicillin allergy, when β-lactam therapy is initiated without exact diagnosis.[6]

A. haemolyticum often occurs in polymicrobic infections together with typical respiratory pathogens such as streptococci. The isolation of classical pathogens from specimens that also contain A. haemolyticum might be in part responsible for the tendency to miss the organism.


A. haemolyticum is the cause of pharyngitis (sore throat) in up to 2.5% of cases.[7] In one study, it was the causative agent of pharyngitis in 1.4% of military conscripts.[8] It is rarely found in the skin or throat of healthy people, meaning it is not a member of the usual bacterial flora.[3]

Little is known about the means by which A. haemolyticum causes infection or the associated skin manifestations. The organism is known to produce uncharacterized hemolytic agent(s), a neuraminidase and a phospholipase D (PLD) acting preferentially on sphingomyelin. PLD is known to result in tissue damage, but the role in disease of the cytotoxic effect caused by this extracellular toxin is not established.

Pyothorax has been reported.[9]


A. hæmolyticum isolated from humans is susceptible to erythromycin[10] (proposed as the first line drug), clindamycin, gentamicin, and cephalosporins.

The use of parenteral antimicrobial drugs must be limited to serious infections.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ MacLean PD, Liebow AA, Rosenberg AA. A hemolytic Corynebacterium resembling Corynebacterium ovis and Corynebacterium pyogenes in man. J Infect Dis. 1946;79:69-90.
  3. ^ a b Linder R (1997). "Rhodococcus equi and Arcanobacterium haemolyticum: two "coryneform" bacteria increasingly recognized as agents of human infection". Emerging Infect. Dis. 3 (2): 145–53.  
  4. ^ "Arcanobacterium Haemolyticum: Overview - eMedicine". Archived from the original on 29 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-11. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "EID V3 N2: Rhodococcus equi and Arcanobacterium haemolyticum: Two Coryneform Bacteria Increasingly Recognized as Agents of Human Infection". Archived from the original on 27 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  7. ^ Mackenzie A, Fuite LA, Chan FT, King J, Allen U, MacDonald N, Diaz-Mitoma F. Incidence and pathogenicity of Arcanobacterium haemolyticum during a 2-year study in Ottawa. Clin Infect Dis. 1995;21(1):177–81
  8. ^ Carlson P, Kontianinen S, Renkonen OV, Sivonen A, Vorpi R Arcanobacterium haemolyticum and streptococcal pharyngitis in army conscripts Scand J Infect Dis. 1995; 27 (1) 17–8
  9. ^ Parija SC, Kaliaperumal V, Kumar SV, Sujatha S, Babu V, Balu V (2005). "Arcanobacterium haemolyticum associated with pyothorax: case report". BMC infectious diseases 5: 68.  
  10. ^ Malini A, Deepa EK, Manohar PV, Borappa K, Prasad SR (2008). "Soft tissue infections with Arcanobacterium haemolyticum: report of three cases". Indian J Med Microbiol 26 (2): 192–5.