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Open Access Highly Accessed Case report

Fournier’s gangrene of the penis caused by Streptococcus dysgalactiae subspecies equisimilis: case report and incidence study in a tertiary-care hospital

Ram V Anantha12*, Katherine J Kasper1, Kelcey G Patterson1, Joseph J Zeppa1, Johan Delport1 and John K McCormick1

Author Affiliations

1 Western University, London, Ontario, Canada

2 Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Siebens-Drake Research Institute Room 133, Western University, 1400 Western Road, London N6G 2V4, Canada

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2013, 13:381  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-13-381

Published: 20 August 2013



Fournier’s gangrene is a rare necrotizing soft tissue infection of the scrotum and penis. We report, to our knowledge, the first case of Fournier’s gangrene caused by Streptococcus dysgalactiae subsp. equisimilis (SDSE), a strain of pyogenic β-hemolytic streptococci that is increasingly being recognized as an important human pathogen.

Case presentation

We describe a healthy 59 year-old Caucasian male who presented to the emergency department with Fournier’s gangrene of the penis and scrotum, with extension to the anterior abdominal wall. He underwent urgent surgical debridement of his scrotum, penis, and anterior abdomen. Swabs from the scrotum grew Gram-positive cocci, which were initially identified as Streptococcus anginosus group by matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization–time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS). However, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification and sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene identified the isolate as Streptococcus dysgalatiae subspecies equisimilis (SDSE). The incidences of invasive S. anginosus group and SDSE infections at the London Health Sciences Centre, a tertiary-care institution in southwestern Ontario, were determined between August 1, 2011 and August 31, 2012, revealing a slightly lower rate of SDSE (3.2 cases per 100,000 population) than other studies.


This case highlights a unique disease manifestation of the emerging human pathogen Streptococcus dysgalatiae subspecies equisimilis that has not been previously reported. This case also underscores the limitations of MALDI-TOF MS in differentiating between closely-related streptococcal species which may have different pathogenic profiles.

Streptococcus dysgalactiae subsp. equisimilis; Fournier’s gangrene; MALDI-TOF MS; Species identification