Bacterial findings in patients referred to hospital for the treatment of acute tonsillitis with or without peritonsillar phlegmon

Camilla Andersen*, Thomas Greve, Kasper Basse Reinholdt, Ann Marlene Gram Kjaerulff, Nichlas Udholm, Vesal Khalid, Adnan Madzak, Christophe Duez, Henrik Münch, Søren Pauli, Christian Sander Danstrup, Niels Krintel Petersen, Tejs Ehlers Klug


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Background: The vast majority of patients with acute tonsillitis (AT) are managed in general practice. However, occasionally patients are referred to hospital for specialized management because of aggravated symptoms and/or findings suggestive of peritonsillar involvement. No prospective studies have been conducted aiming to investigate the prevalent and significant microorganisms in this highly selected group of patients. We aimed to describe the microbiological findings of acute tonsillitis with or without peritonsillar phlegmon (PP) in patients referred for hospital treatment and to point out potential pathogens using the following principles to suggest pathogenic significance: (1) higher prevalence in patients compared to healthy controls, (2) higher abundance in patients compared to controls, and (3) higher prevalence at time of infection compared to time of follow up. Methods: Meticulous and comprehensive cultures were performed on tonsillar swabs from 64 patients with AT with (n = 25) or without (n = 39) PP and 55 healthy controls, who were prospectively enrolled at two Danish Ear-Nose-Throat Departments between June 2016 and December 2019. Results: Streptococcus pyogenes was significantly more prevalent in patients (27%) compared to controls (4%) (p < 0.001). Higher abundance was found in patients compared to controls for Fusobacterium necrophorum (mean 2.4 vs. 1.4, p = 0.017) and S. pyogenes (mean 3.1 vs. 2.0, p = 0.045) in semi-quantitative cultures. S. pyogenes, Streptococcus dysgalactiae, and Prevotella species were significantly more prevalent at time of infection compared to follow up (p = 0.016, p = 0.016, and p = 0.039, respectively). A number of species were detected significantly less frequently in patients compared to controls and the mean number of species was significantly lower in patients compared to controls (6.5 vs. 8.3, p < 0.001). Conclusions: Disregarding Prevotella spp. because of the prevalence in healthy controls (100%), our findings suggest that S. pyogenes, F. necrophorum, and S. dysgalactiae are significant pathogens in severe AT with or without PP. In addition, infections were associated with reduced diversity (dysbacteriosis). Trial registration: The study is registered in the protocol database (# 52,683). The study was approved by the Ethical Committee at Aarhus County (# 1-10-72-71-16) and by the Danish Data Protection Agency (# 1-16-02-65-16).

TidsskriftBMC Infectious Diseases
Udgave nummer1
Antal sider10
StatusUdgivet - 29 jun. 2023

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a grant from Aarhus University Hospital, the Lundbeck Foundation [Grant number: R185-2014-2482], Ørelæge Hans Skovby´s og Hustru Emma Skouby´s Fond, Frimodt-Heineke Fonden, and Torben og Alice Frimodts Fond.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).


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