A Frequently Overlooked Bacteria in Clinical Microbiology Laboratories: Arcanobacterium haemolyticum
Arcanobacterium haemolyticum, previously known as Corynebacterium haemolyticum, is a facultative anaerobic, gram-positive bacillus with negative catalase and positive CAMP inhibition test results. It may be the causative agent of about 0.5-3% of acute bacterial pharyngitis especially in children and young adults. Since growth of A.haemolyticum is usually inhibited by flora members and since it slowly develops hemolysis in sheep blood agar and its colony morphology resembles beta-hemolytic streptococci, it is frequently overlooked in the evaluation of throat cultures. The aims of this study were to investigate the isolation frequency of A.haemolyticum from the throat cultures of pediatric patients by using both sheep and human blood agar media, and to evaluate the performances of those media for the identification of A.haemolyticum. A total of 355 patients (median age: 7 years) who were admitted to pediatric outpatient clinics with the symptoms of tonsillopharyngitis between March-July 2010 period, were included in the study. Swab samples obtained from tonsils and posterior oropharynx were inoculated into a divided plate which contained 5% sheep blood agar in one half and 5% human blood agar in the other half. After incubation in 5% CO(2) at 37 degrees C, the beta-hemolytic colonies with a microscopic morphology of gram-positive bacilli were further evaluated on 24, 48 and 72(th) hours. Identification of A.haemolyticum was based on negative catalase test, positive reverse CAMP test and biochemical characteristics obtained by API-Coryne (bioMerieux, France) identification system. In our study, beta-hemolytic colonies were detected in the throat cultures of 56 (16%) patients, of which 14% (49/355) were identified as beta-hemolytic streptococci (46 group A, 2 group G, 1 group C), and 2% (7/355) were identified as A.haemolyticum. All of the A.haemolyticum isolates were characterized by the production of beta-hemolysis in human blood agar at 24 hours, while the beta-hemolysis generation time in sheep blood agar was 48 hours for four isolates and 72 hours for three isolates. A.haemolyticum was identified in 2% of children with tonsillopharyngitis during the five months study period in spring/summer. All of the strains were isolated at human blood agar in 24 hours. Thus, in order to isolate A.haemolyticum in routine throat cultures, sheep blood agar plates together with human blood agar plates should be used in clinical microbiology laboratories.