Brazilian purpuric fever

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Brazilian purpuric fever
Specialty Infectious disease   Blue pencil.svg

Brazilian purpuric fever (BPF) is an illness of children caused by the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae biogroup aegyptius which is ultimately fatal due to sepsis. BPF was first recognized in the São Paulo state of Brazil in 1984. At this time, young children between the ages of 3 months and 10 years were contracting a strange illness which was characterized by high fever and purpuric lesions on the body. These cases were all fatal, and originally thought to be due to meningitis. It was not until the autopsies were conducted that the cause of these deaths was confirmed to be infection by H. influenzae aegyptius. Although BPF was thought to be confined to Brazil, other cases occurred in Australia and the United States during 1984–1990.

Haemophilus influenzae biogroup aegyptius (Hae) is a causative agent of acute and often purulent conjunctivitis, more commonly known as pink eye. It was discovered independently by Koch and Weeks in the 1880s.

Sepsis life-threatening organ dysfunction triggered by infection

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that arises when the body's response to infection causes injury to its own tissues and organs. Common signs and symptoms include fever, increased heart rate, increased breathing rate, and confusion. There may also be symptoms related to a specific infection, such as a cough with pneumonia, or painful urination with a kidney infection. In the very young, old, and people with a weakened immune system, there may be no symptoms of a specific infection and the body temperature may be low or normal, rather than high. Severe sepsis is sepsis causing poor organ function or insufficient blood flow. Insufficient blood flow may be evident by low blood pressure, high blood lactate, or low urine output. Septic shock is low blood pressure due to sepsis that does not improve after fluid replacement.

Meningitis inflammation of membranes around the brain and spinal cord

Meningitis is an acute inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, known collectively as the meninges. The most common symptoms are fever, headache, and neck stiffness. Other symptoms include confusion or altered consciousness, vomiting, and an inability to tolerate light or loud noises. Young children often exhibit only nonspecific symptoms, such as irritability, drowsiness, or poor feeding. If a rash is present, it may indicate a particular cause of meningitis; for instance, meningitis caused by meningococcal bacteria may be accompanied by a characteristic rash.


Haemophilus species are non-spore-forming gram-negative coccobacilli . They lack motility and are aerobic or facultatively anaerobic. They require preformed growth factors that are present in blood, specifically hemin (X factor) and NAD or NADP (V factor). The bacterium grows best at 35–37 °C and has an optimal pH of 7.6. Haemophilus species are obligate parasites and are part of the normal flora of the human upper respiratory tract.

Hemin chemical substance

Hemin is an iron-containing porphyrin with chlorine that can be formed from a haem group, such as haem b found in the haemoglobin of human blood.

Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide coenzyme

Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) is a cofactor found in all living cells. The compound is called a dinucleotide because it consists of two nucleotides joined through their phosphate groups. One nucleotide contains an adenine nucleobase and the other nicotinamide. Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide exists in two forms: an oxidized and reduced form abbreviated as NAD+ and NADH respectively.

Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate coenzyme

Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate, abbreviated NADP+ or, in older notation, TPN (triphosphopyridine nucleotide), is a cofactor used in anabolic reactions, such as the Calvin cycle and lipid and nucleic acid syntheses, which require NADPH as a reducing agent.


In documented BPF cases, the symptoms include high fever (101.3 °F/38,5 °C or higher), nausea, vomiting, severe abdominal pain, septic shock, and ultimately death. A history of conjunctivitis 30 days prior to the onset of fever was also present in the documented BPF cases. The physical presentation of children infected with BPF include purpuric skin lesions affecting mainly the face and extremities, cyanosis, rapid necrosis of soft tissue, particularly the hands, feet, nose, and ears. Analysis of the fatalities due to BPF showed hemorrhage in the skin, lungs, and adrenal glands. Histopathology showed hemorrhage, intravascular microthrombi and necrosis in the upper dermis, renal glomeruli, lungs, and hepatic sinusoids.

Conjunctivitis inflammation of the outermost layer of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids

Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is inflammation of the outermost layer of the white part of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelid. It makes the eye appear pink or reddish. Pain, burning, scratchiness, or itchiness may occur. The affected eye may have increased tears or be "stuck shut" in the morning. Swelling of the white part of the eye may also occur. Itching is more common in cases due to allergies. Conjunctivitis can affect one or both eyes.

Cyanosis medical diagnosis

Cyanosis is the bluish or purplish discolouration of the skin or mucous membranes due to the tissues near the skin surface having low oxygen saturation. Based on Lundsgaard and Van Slyke's work, it is classically described as occurring if 5.0 g/dL of deoxyhemoglobin or greater is present. This was based on an estimate of capillary saturation based on a mean of arterial versus peripheral venous blood gas measurements. Since estimation of hypoxia is usually now based either on arterial blood gas measurement or pulse oximetry, this is probably an overestimate, with evidence that levels of 2.0 g/dL of deoxyhemoglobin may reliably produce cyanosis. Since, however, the presence of cyanosis is dependent upon there being an absolute quantity of deoxyhemoglobin, the bluish color is more readily apparent in those with high hemoglobin counts than it is with those with anemia. Also, the bluer the color, the more difficult it is to detect on deeply pigmented skin. When signs of cyanosis first appear, such as on the lips or fingers, intervention should be made within 3–5 minutes because a severe hypoxia or severe circulatory failure may have induced the cyanosis.

Necrosis premature cell death

Necrosis is a form of cell injury which results in the premature death of cells in living tissue by autolysis.

Risk factors

The risk factors associated with BPF are not well known. However, it has been suggested that children under 5 years of age are more susceptible to BPF since they lack serum bactericidal activity against the infection. Older children and adults have much higher titers of bactericidal antibodies, which serve as a protective measure. Also children residing in warmer geographic areas have been associated with a higher risk of BPF infection.


The eye gnat (Liohippelates) was thought to be the cause of the conjunctivitis epidemic which occurred in Mato Grosso do Sul in 1991. These gnats were extracted from the conjunctival secretions of the children who were infected with conjunctivitis. 19 of those children developed BPF following the conjunctivitis. Other modes of transmission include contact with the conjunctival discharges of infected people, ophthalmic instruments which have not been properly sterilized, sharing eye makeup applicators or multiple-dose eye medications.


The pathogenesis of BPF is not well established but it is thought that patients become pharyngeal or conjunctival carriers of H. aegyptius, which is followed by spreading to the bloodstream. This hypothesis is supported by the isolation of from both the conjunctiva and oropharynx of documented BPF cases with H. aegyptius bacteremia. Possible virulence factors of H. aegyptius include lipooligosaccharides (LOS), capsular polysaccharides, pilus proteins (mediates adhesion to mucosal membrane), immunoglobulin A1 (IgA1), membrane associated proteins, and extracellular proteins. In a study conducted by Barbosa et al., a 60 kilodalton hemagglutinating extracellular product was suggested to be the major pathogenic factor linked to the hemorrhagic manifestations of BPF. This molecule was found to be absorbable by human O-type erythrocytes. After the molecule had been injected into rabbits, they showed reactions similar to that of BPF patients. Further research is being conducted to determine the mechanisms involved with the other virulence factors of H. aegyptius. The overall pathogenesis of BPF probably involves multiple steps and a number of bacterial factors.


A positive BPF diagnosis includes the clinical symptoms (mainly the fever, purpuric lesions, and rapid progression of the disease), isolation of Haemophilus Influenzae Biogroup aegyptius from blood, and negative laboratory tests for Neisseria meningitidis . The negative tests for Neisseria meningitidis rules out the possibility of the symptoms being caused by meningitis, since the clinical presentations of the two diseases are similar.

<i>Neisseria meningitidis</i> species of bacterium

Neisseria meningitidis, often referred to as meningococcus, is a Gram-negative bacterium that can cause meningitis and other forms of meningococcal disease such as meningococcemia, a life-threatening sepsis. It has also been reported to be transmitted through oral sex and cause urethritis in men. The bacterium is referred to as a coccus because it is round, and more specifically, diplococcus because of its tendency to form pairs. About 10% of adults are carriers of the bacteria in their nasopharynx. As an exclusively human pathogen it is the main cause of bacterial meningitis in children and young adults, causing developmental impairment and death in about 10% of cases. It causes the only form of bacterial meningitis known to occur epidemically, mainly Africa and Asia. It occurs worldwide in both epidemic and endemic form. N. meningitidis is spread through saliva and respiratory secretions during coughing, sneezing, kissing, chewing on toys and even through sharing a source of fresh water. It infects its host cells by sticking to them with long thin extensions called pili and the surface-exposed proteins Opa and Opc and has several virulence factors.


The basic method for control of the conjunctivitis includes proper hygiene and care for the affected eye. If the conjunctivitis is found to be caused by H. aegyptius Biogroup III then prompt antibiotic treatment preferably with rifampin has been shown to prevent progression to BPF. If the infected person resides in Brazil, it is mandatory that the infection is reported to the health authority so that a proper investigation of the contacts can be completed. This investigation will help to determine the probable source of the infection.


It is extremely difficult to successfully treat BPF, mainly because of the difficulty obtaining a proper diagnosis. Since the disease starts out with what seems to be a common case of conjunctivitis, H. aegyptius is not susceptible to the antibiotic eye drops that are being used to treat it. This treatment is ineffective because it treats only the local ocular infection, whereas if it progresses to BPF, systemic antibiotic treatment is required. Although BPF is susceptible to many commonly used antibiotics, including ampicillin, cefuroxime, cefotaxime, rifampin, and chloramphenicol, by the time it is diagnosed the disease has progressed too much to be effectively treated. However, with the fast rate of progression of BPF it is unlikely that it will be successfully treated. With antibiotic therapy, the mortality rate of BPF is around 70%.

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Scarlet fever infectious disease

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Acute bronchitis short-term inflammation of the bronchi (large and medium-sized airways) of the lungs

Acute bronchitis, also known as a chest cold, is short-term inflammation of the bronchi of the lungs. The most common symptom is a cough. Other symptoms include coughing up mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath, fever, and chest discomfort. The infection may last from a few to ten days. The cough may persist for several weeks afterward with the total duration of symptoms usually around three weeks. Some have symptoms for up to six weeks.

The HACEK organisms are a group of fastidious gram-negative bacteria that are an unusual cause of infective endocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart due to bacterial infection. HACEK is an abbreviation of the initials of the genera of this group of bacteria: Haemophilus, Aggregatibacter, Cardiobacterium, Eikenella, Kingella. The HACEK organisms are a normal part of the human microbiota, living in the oral-pharyngeal region.

<i>Streptococcus pneumoniae</i> species of bacterium

Streptococcus pneumoniae, or pneumococcus, is a Gram-positive, alpha-hemolytic or beta-hemolytic, facultative anaerobic member of the genus Streptococcus. They are usually found in pairs (diplococci) and do not form spores and are nonmotile. As a significant human pathogenic bacterium S. pneumoniae was recognized as a major cause of pneumonia in the late 19th century, and is the subject of many humoral immunity studies.

Septic arthritis arthritis that involves infection by a pathogen located in joint

Septic arthritis, also known as joint infection or infectious arthritis, is the invasion of a joint by an infectious agent resulting in joint inflammation. Symptoms typically include redness, heat, and pain in a single joint associated with a decreased ability to move the joint. Onset is usually rapid. Other symptoms may include fever, weakness, and headache. Occasionally, more than one joint may be involved.

Infective endocarditis endocarditis that is characterized by inflammation of the endocardium caused by infectious agents.

Infective endocarditis is an infection of the inner surface of the heart, usually the valves. Symptoms may include fever, small areas of bleeding into the skin, heart murmur, feeling tired, and low red blood cell count. Complications may include valvular insufficiency, heart failure, stroke, and kidney failure.

Upper respiratory tract infection

Upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) are illnesses caused by an acute infection which involves the upper respiratory tract including the nose, sinuses, pharynx or larynx. This commonly includes nasal obstruction, sore throat, tonsillitis, pharyngitis, laryngitis, sinusitis, otitis media, and the common cold. Most infections are viral in nature and in other instances the cause is bacterial. Upper respiratory tract infections can also be fungal or helminth in origin, but these are far less common.

Lower respiratory tract infection

Lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI), while often used as a synonym for pneumonia, can also be applied to other types of infection including lung abscess and acute bronchitis. Symptoms include shortness of breath, weakness, fever, coughing and fatigue.

<i>Rickettsia rickettsii</i> species of bacterium

Rickettsia rickettsii is a gram-negative, intracellular, coccobacillus bacterium that is around 0.8 to 2.0 micrometers long. R. rickettsi is the causative agent of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. R. rickettsii is one of the most pathogenic Rickettsia strains. It affects a large majority of the Western Hemisphere and small portions of the Eastern Hemisphere.

Neonatal conjunctivitis

Neonatal conjunctivitis, also known as ophthalmia neonatorum, is a form of conjunctivitis and a type of neonatal infection contracted by newborns during delivery. The baby's eyes are contaminated during passage through the birth canal from a mother infected with either Neisseria gonorrhoeae or Chlamydia trachomatis.

Orbital cellulitis Human disease

Orbital cellulitis is inflammation of eye tissues behind the orbital septum. It is most commonly caused by an acute spread of infection into the eye socket from either the adjacent sinuses or through the blood. It may also occur after trauma. When it affects the rear of the eye, it is known as retro-orbital cellulitis.

Periorbital cellulitis

Periorbital cellulitis, also known as preseptal cellulitis, is an inflammation and infection of the eyelid and portions of skin around the eye anterior to the orbital septum. It may be caused by breaks in the skin around the eye, and subsequent spread to the eyelid; infection of the sinuses around the nose (sinusitis); or from spread of an infection elsewhere through the blood.

Pasteurella multocida is a Gram-negative, nonmotile, penicillin-sensitive coccobacillus belonging to the Pasteurellaceae family. Strains belonging to the species are currently classified into five serogroups based on capsular composition and 16 somatic serovars (1-16). P. multocida is the cause of a range of diseases in mammals and birds, including fowl cholera in poultry, atrophic rhinitis in pigs, and bovine hemorrhagic septicemia in cattle and buffalo. It can also cause a zoonotic infection in humans, which typically is a result of bites or scratches from domestic pets. Many mammals and birds harbor it as part of their normal respiratory microbiota.

A pneumococcal infection is an infection caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, which is also called the pneumococcus. S. pneumoniae is a common member of the bacterial flora colonizing the nose and throat of 5–10% of healthy adults and 20–40% of healthy children. However, it is also a cause of significant disease, being a leading cause of pneumonia, bacterial meningitis, and sepsis. The World Health Organization estimate that in 2005 pneumococcal infections were responsible for the death of 1.6 million children worldwide.

Haemophilus meningitis is a form of bacterial meningitis caused by the Haemophilus influenzae bacteria. It is usually associated with Haemophilus influenzae type b. Meningitis involves the inflammation of the protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Haemophilus meningitis is characterized by symptoms including fever, nausea, sensitivity to light, headaches, stiff neck, anorexia, and seizures. Haemophilus meningitis can be deadly, but antibiotics are effective in treating the infection, especially when cases are caught early enough that the inflammation has not done a great deal of damage. Before the introduction of the Hib vaccine in 1985, Haemophilus meningitis was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children under the age of five. However, since the creation of the Hib vaccine, only two in every 100,000 children contract this type of meningitis. Five to ten percent of cases can be fatal, although the average mortality rate in developing nations is seventeen percent, mostly due to lack of access to vaccination as well as lack of access to medical care needed to combat the meningitis.