Review article: Animal bites: An update for management with a focus on infections


  • Claire Dendle, MB BS, FRACP, Infectious Diseases Physician; David Looke, MB BS, FRACP, FRCPA, MMedSci, Senior Staff Specialist and Associate Professor.

Dr David Looke, Infection Management Services, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Woolloongabba, Qld. 4102, Australia. Email:


Animal bites are a significant public health problem, with an estimated 2% of the population bitten each year. The majority of bites are from dogs and risk factors include young children, men, certain dog breeds and unrestrained dogs. The risk of infection following bites differs among animal species and is dependent on animal dentition and oral flora. Recent studies have demonstrated a broad range of pathogens isolated from infected bite wounds, with Pasteurella species being the predominant isolate from dog and cat bite wounds. Controversy exists about the use of prophylactic antibiotics; however, they are currently only recommended for high-risk bite wounds. Two fatal cases of Australian bat lyssavirus have been reported and bats are the only identified reservoir in Australia. All bat bites are of high risk and should receive post-exposure prophylaxis for rabies. Workers handling bats should be offered routine immunization.