Anaerobic Infections

Anaerobic Infections

Introduction to anaerobic infections

Anaerobic infections are simply infections caused by anaerobic bacteria. These are the most common flora in our systems. They occur naturally. Anaerobic bacteria do not cause any infection when in their normal state. Their infections arise after a trauma or injury to the body. Organs most commonly affected by anaerobic infections include the:

Treating these infections may be difficult. Common anaerobic infections include:

Anaerobic infections
Photo Credit: Cystic Fibrosis News Today

Causes of anaerobic infections

Anaerobic infections may occur after an injury to deep tissues. Exposure of these visceral tissues also causes infections. This may occur mainly due to surgery or trauma.

The risk of contracting an anaerobic infection is raised if a person has:

  • Staph infection
  • Low blood supply
  • Diabetes
  • Open wounds, which may be easily infected
  • A compromised or weakened immune system
  • Diabetes.

HIV, AIDS, or other conditions that causes a severe Compromization of the immune system can raise one’s risk of periodontitis or related conditions involving the gingival (gum) or oral (mouth) inflammation. Other conditions that may increase a person’s risk of anaerobic infections include:

  • Neutropenic colitis (this is a complication of chemotherapy that affects the colon).
  • Lung, uterus or colonic carcinomas
  • Leukemia

Symptoms of anaerobic infections

Symptoms that characterize an anaerobic infection include:

  • A discharge with bad odor
  • Noticeable infection near the skin
  • Abscess filled with pus
  • Gangrene or tissue damage
  • Discoloration of the infected area

Oral or throat infections may give rise to bad breath, tender gums, or pain. Lung infections may result in coughing or chest pain. Also, skin infections may cause redness, swelling or pain.

Diagnosing anaerobic infections

An anaerobic infection is first diagnosed via a physical examination. Your doctor can identify the infecting bacteria by testing a sample of the infected tissue. X-rays or imaging scans may be needed for internal infections. Your physician will also inquire about your symptoms.

Treating anaerobic infections

Drug treatment

Anaerobic infections may be treated with antibiotics and other medications. Antibiotic prescribed will depend on the kind of infection, and the causative bacteria. For infections involving the throat, mouth, or lungs, your physician will prescribe:

  • Amoxicillin
  • Clindamycin
  • Metronidazole
  • Clavulanate

If your gastrointestinal tract is infected, or you have an infection in the pelvic region, which occurs commonly in women, your physician may give you:

  • Metronidazole
  • Moxifloxacin
  • Carbapenems (like ertapenem or meropenem)
  • Tigecycline

Immediately the offending bacteria has been identified, the medication required will be prescribed.


Treatment of infection is also done by draining the pus that has accumulated. In some cases, surgery may be required to remove the pus or infection. This is referred to as debridement – the removal of unhealthy tissue from a wound. Your physician will then ensure that you have a healthy circulation of blood to the wound. Also, you will be scanned for any obstructions or anything that may prevent your wound from healing. The area will be placed under surveillance until it is free of infectious bacteria and functioning at an optimal level.

Preventing anaerobic infections

Consult your physician as soon as you notice the symptoms of infection inside or anywhere on your body. Getting treated for minor infections can help curb the spread of bacteria.

Anaerobic infections in the mouth or lungs can be prevented through many ways. These include:

  • Maintaining good oral hygiene, such as flossing or brushing twice daily
  • Suction out all infectious fluids in your mouth (this can be handled by your dentist).
  • Keeping your stomach acid pH level balanced

Skin anaerobic infections can be prevented by taking good care of wounds and cuts as soon as they occur.

You may also be given antibiotics prior to surgery to prevent infection of the blood with bacteria. Anaerobic infections can also be prevented by taking some medications prior to surgery. This will keep the area being operated on free from infections.

Complications of anaerobic infections

If anaerobic infections are left untreated, they may lead to serious conditions, such as:

  • Aspiration pneumonia
  • Lung, brain or liver abscesses
  • Anaerobic cellulitis
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Periodontitis
  • Sepsis
  • Trench mouth (known clinically as necrotizing gingivitis)

Most of these conditions are accompanied by their own set of complications and symptoms, such as tooth loss, organ failure, fever, fatigue, and even death in some cases.


Anaerobic infections may be fatal if not treated quickly and properly. Diagnosing such infection may take some days. Antibiotics will be administered after diagnosis.

Factors that may increase your risk of complications include:

  • Age
  • Polymicrobial infections (here, infections are caused by multiple types of organisms)
  • Underlying conditions involving the kidneys, liver or the heart.

A particular study has shown that the risk of complications is increased by liver disease and old age.

However, one may recover completely from the infection if treatment is done properly and on time. You are advised to see your physician immediately you start noticing the symptoms. This will help you fight off the anaerobic infection quickly.

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