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Revista do Instituto de Medicina Tropical de São Paulo

versión On-line ISSN 1678-9946

Rev. Inst. Med. trop. S. Paulo vol.52 no.2 São Paulo marzo/abr. 2010 



Enterococcus gallinarum meningitis in an immunocompetent host: a case report


Meningite por Enterococcus gallinarum em paciente sem imunodepressão: relato de caso



Vicente Sperb AntonelloI; Francis de Moura ZenknerII; Josiane FrançaIII; Breno Riegel SantosI

IDepartment of Infectious Diseases of Hospital Nossa Senhora da Conceição, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil
IIDepartment of Intensive Care of Hospital Nossa Senhora da Conceição, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil
IIIDepartment of Internal Medicine of Hospital Nossa Senhora da Conceição, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil

Correspondence to




We describe a rare case of a 53-year-old man with a long history of alcohol abuse, with Enterococcus gallinarum meningitis, an organism that rarely causes human infection and is primarily found in the gastrointestinal tract of poultry. The patient improved with high-dose ampicillin and gentamicin therapy. To our knowledge, this is the first Brazilian reported case of E. gallinarum meningitis and probably the first case described in an immunocompetent host.

Keywords: Enterococcus; Enterococcus gallinarum; Meningitis; Alcohol abuse.


Descrevemos caso raro de paciente de 53 anos com história de alcoolismo prévio, com meningite por Enterococcus gallinarum, um organismo que raramente causa infecções em humanos e é encontrado principalmente no trato gastrointestinal de aves. O paciente teve melhora importante após início de tratamento intravenoso com ampicilina e gentamicina combinados. Para o nosso conhecimento, este é o primeiro caso relatado de meningite por E. gallinarum no Brasil e possivelmente o primeiro caso descrito em paciente sem imunodepressão.




Enterococci are gram-positive, facultative anaerobic cocci that are ovoid in shape and are difficult to distinguish from streptococci on Gram stain6,8. They are usually associated with urinary tract and cardiovascular infections, while enterococcal involvement in central nervous system (CNS) rarely occurs in immunocompetent adults5,9,10. E. faecalis and E. faecium are the two most commonly encountered enterococcal species, together accounting for 90% of isolates6,8. Other species, including E. gallinarum are uncommonly encountered in human clinical specimens and are primarily found in the gastrointestinal tracts in poultry3,8. Infection by E. gallinarum rarely occurs and has been implicated in a few invasive infections in humans, especially in immunocompromised or chronically ill patients2,3,5. There are only four cases of CNS involvement reported in literature due to this unusual germ, all reporting on patients with some degree of immunosuppression who had been previously submitted to a neurological procedure4,8,9,10. In this paper we describe one case of meningitis caused by E. gallinarum in an immunocompetent host.



A 53-year old man was admitted to a public general hospital with a history of weakness, malaise, weight loss, mental confusion, fever and ataxia for 15 days prior to hospitalization. He had a background history of partial gastrectomy and cholecystectomy, 20 and 10 years before, respectively. He also had history of heavy alcohol intake for many years. On physical examination the patient presented fever (axillary temperature of 38.5 ºC), nuchal rigidity and mental confusion. A computed tomography (CT) scan of the brain showed dilatation of the ventricular system, with reduction of cerebellum volume. Lumbar puncture was performed, with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) opening pressure of 100 mmH2O, 240 cells/mm3, with neutrophil predominance, glucose of 21 mg/dL and protein of 270 mg/dL. Laboratory findings were as follows: serum creatinine 0.31 mg/dL; potassium 3.4 mEq/L; sodium 111 mEq/L; RBC 345 X 104/L; WBC 1,16 X 104/L with a left shift. Intravenous ceftriaxone was started. There was no significant improvement of general status in the first 24 hours. At this time, patient developed respiratory distress and was admitted to the ICU requiring mechanical ventilation. Using the automated system Vitek 2®, result from CSF culture grew Enterococcus gallinarum, sensitive, as shown by MIC, to almost all tested antibiotics, including ampicillin, penicillin, aminoglycosides, macrolides, tetracyclines, quinolones and only resistant to vancomycin. Blood and urine cultures, echocardiography, ultrasound and CT scan were unremarkable.

Ampicillin 12 g/day with gentamicin (7 mg/kg per day) was substituted for ceftriaxone and continued for three weeks. On the third day of treatment, another lumbar puncture was carried out, this time with negative culture. The patient gradually recovered mental status and was discharged with improved verbal, motor and ocular functions.



Enterococci uncommonly cause meningitis in normal adults. Most cases of enterococcal meningitis occur in patients with anatomic defects of CNS, prior neurosurgery, head trauma or immunosuppression1,4,5,7. Two presentations of enterococcal meningitis are usually described: postoperative and spontaneous. Meningitis is a rare complication of high-grade bacteremia in patients with enterococcal endocarditis, especially in patients with AIDS and acute leukemias5.

Enterococcus gallinarum, first described by Bridge & Sneath in 1982 as a streptococcus, and later redefined as anenterococcus by Collins in 1984, is a rare enterococcal species; more commonly found in gastrointestinal tract of certain animals, and can sporadically cause infection6. In a review of the literature, only four cases of meningitis by E. gallinarum were found as shown in Table 1. In all cases, a neurological procedure was performed prior to diagnosis (three with ventriculoperitoneal shunt and one with a lumbar drain)4,8,9,10. We describe here a case of E. gallinarum meningitis in a 53-year-old man, with a long history of alcohol abuse. In this case, there was unquestionable evidence of CNS infection, as demonstrated by mental confusion, fever, neck stiffness and neutrophillic pleocytosis on cerebrospinal fluid, with markedly high protein and low glucose. The infection of the CNS may have been associated with E. gallinarum derived from the gut, given that there was no other evidence of enterococcal infection or underlying diseases. The patient presented severe hyponatremia, which can be explained by the Syndrome of Inappropriate Secretion of Antidiuretic Hormone, secondary to the CNS infection.

The option for ampicillin and aminoglycoside was based on two important facts: the antibiogram and synergy of both antimicrobials, as recommended for CNS infections due to Enterococci, although there is no consensus about the best choice between monotherapy or combination therapy4,7. The occurrence of vancomycin resistance in our case was expected, regarding a natural characteristic of motile species of enterococci in expressing Glycopeptide resistant genes. The duration of treatment was based on previous reports of treatment of enterococcal meningitis4,5,7,8,10.

To our knowledge, this is the first Brazilian reported case of Enterococcus gallinarum meningitis. In conclusion, a proper bacteriological diagnosis is of paramount importance for the guidance of therapy due to the possibility of an uncommon etiology as in this case. Unique to this case also, was the occurrence of E. gallinarum meningitis in a host without immunodeficiency other than alcohol abuse.

Conflict of Interest: None to declare.

Funding: None to declare.

Ethical Approval: Subjects gave informed consent to the work.



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Correspondence to:

Received: 16 December 2009
Accepted: 18 February 2010

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