What causes lymphangitis?

Updated: Dec 17, 2018
  • Author: Raymond D Pitetti, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Russell W Steele, MD  more...
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In individuals with normal host defenses, species of group A beta-hemolytic streptococci (GABHS) are the most common causes of lymphangitis. These organisms elaborate fibrinolysins and hyaluronidase, which aid their invasion of lymphatic channels. Lymphangitis caused by GABHS can rapidly progress and has been associated with serious complications.

Staphylococcus aureus can also cause lymphangitis, although the disorder is more likely to occur in patients with cellulitis due to GABHS than in those with cellulitis resulting from S aureus.

Other organisms that can cause lymphangitis include the following:

  • Pseudomonas species

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae - A relatively uncommon cause of lymphangitis

  • Pasteurella multocida - Associated with dog and cat bites; can cause cellulitis and lymphangitis

  • Gram-negative rods, gram-negative bacilli, and fungi - May cause cellulitis and resultant lymphangitis in immunocompromised hosts

  • Aeromonas hydrophila - Can contaminate wounds that occur in freshwater

  • Wuchereria bancrofti - This filarial nematode is a major cause of acute lymphangitis worldwide; signs and symptoms of lymphangitis caused by W bancrofti are indistinguishable from those of bacterial lymphangitis [1, 2]

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