The genus Erysipelothrix contains two main species: E. rhusiopathiae and E. tonsillarum, the latter being isolated from apparently healthy swine and considered to be non-pathogenic. Erysipelothrix inopinata is a novel species that was recently isolated from sterile-filtered vegetable broth. These Erysipelothrix species are ubiquitous in nature and can cause diseases in a variety of animals including swine, humans, poultry, sheep, cattle, and wild animals. The diseases caused by these species are called erysipelas in animals and erysipeloid in humans. Human infections tend to be occupationally associated: slaughterhouse workers, butchers, and fishermen.2,4

Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae is a ubiquitous gram positive rod-shaped, intracellular anaerobic bacterium that causes erysipelas, a common infection of the superficial layer of the skin, in contrast to cellulitis and necrotizing fasciitis, which also involve the subcutaneous tissue. The infection is common in mammals and birds, especially in pigs and poultry. Healthy pigs carrying E. rhusiopathiae in their lymphoid tissues have been suggested as a reservoir of the pathogen. Erysipelas in swine occurs in different forms characterized by blood poisoning often resulting in sudden death (acute form), skin lesions (sub-acute form), polyarthritis and endocarditis (chronic form).1

ErysipelothrixErysipelothrix infection
Source: New Microbes New Infect. 2015 Nov via PubMed Central

Turkeys are most seriously affected and suffer from bluish skin to bleeding and bruising in the breast and leg muscles. Problems due to E. rhusiopathiae also increased in laying hen.

The E. tonsillarum bacterium has been isolated from dogs with endocarditis indicating that E. tonsillarum could be a canine pathogen.3

Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae bacterium sporadically causes mortalities in captive marine mammals, and has recently been implicated in large-scale wildlife die-offs.4


  1. Recurrent erysipelas - risk factors and clinical presentation. Malin Inghammar, Magnus Rasmussen and Adam Linder
  2. Virulence determinants, antimicrobial susceptibility, and molecular profiles of Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae strains isolated from China. Yi Ding, Dongmei Zhu, Jianmin Zhang, Longsheng Yang, Xiangru Wang, Huanchun Chen, Chen Tan
  3. Detection of Antibodies to Erysipelothrix in Stray Dogs in Japan. Y. Shimazaki, K. Gamoh, Y. Imada, H. Makie, M. Kanzaki, T. Takahashi
  4. Genomic analysis of the multi-host pathogen Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae reveals extensive recombination as well as the existence of three generalist clades with wide geographic distribution. Taya Forde1 et al. 2016



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