The enterococcus has been relegated to a position of unimportance in the pathogenesis of surgical infections. However the increasing prevalence and virulence of these bacteria prompt reconsideration of this view, particularly because the surgical patient has become increasingly vulnerable to infectious morbidity due to debility, immunosuppression, and therapy with increasingly potent antibiotics. The enterococcus is a versatile opportunistic nosocomial pathogen, causing such diverse infections as wound, intra-abdominal, and urinary tract infections; catheter-associated infection; suppurative thrombophlebitis; endocarditis; and pneumonia. Although surgical drainage remains the cornerstone of therapy for enterococcal infections involving a discrete focus, in the circumstances typified by the compromised surgical patient, specific antibacterial therapy directed against the enterococcus is warranted. Recent evidence indicates that parenteral antibiotic therapy for enterococcal bacteremia is mandatory and that appropriate therapy clearly reduces the number of deaths.
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