Some infections are caused by bacteria that cannot survive or multiply when oxygen is present. These bacteria, called anaerobes, normally live in the GI tract, where there is only a limited amount of oxygen. By definition, the term anaerobic means “life without air.”
Here are brief descriptions of anaerobic infections that sometimes affect children.
Actinomycosis (lumpy jaw disease) is caused most often by a species of bacteria called Actinomyces. This infection usually occurs on the face and neck, sometimes after a dental infection or procedure such as a tooth extraction or oral surgery or after trauma to the face. It can also affect other parts of the body, including the abdomen, where it may be related to a perforation of the intestine or trauma in the region. Abscesses (collections of pus) may form when these infections are present. Actinomycosis rarely develops in infants and children.
Laboratory tests can confirm the presence of Actinomyces bacteria. When actinomycosis is diagnosed, your doctor may treat it with intravenous antibiotics (eg, penicillin, ampicillin) for 4 to 6 weeks, followed by high doses of antibiotics taken by mouth for months.
Bacteroides and Prevotella infections. Bacterial organisms from species called Bacteroides and Prevotella are anaerobic. They are common organisms in the mouth, GI tract, and female genital tract. They can cause infections in various parts of the body in children and adults of all ages. The most common are dental infections, inflammation of the abdominal lining (peritonitis), and abscesses within the abdomen, uterus, or tubes. In other regions of the body, these bacteria have been associated with conditions like chronic ear infections, deep skin infections, and lung abscesses.
Cultures can be collected and sent to the laboratory to identify and confirm the organisms responsible for the infection, determining whether Bacteroides or Prevotella species are involved. These infections are treated with antibiotics such as clindamycin or metronidazole. In most cases, the bacteria are resistant to penicillin drugs. If an abscess has formed, it may need to be drained using a needle or by surgery.