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Streptococcus bovis endocarditis, a silent sign for colonic tumour.

AIM: An association between colonic carcinoma and Streptococcus bovis endocarditis/bacteraemia was first suggested in 1951. This knowledge has great clinical implications, yet we found scant awareness amongst general surgical trainees. The aim of this article was to review the evidence available in the literature and explore the pathophysiology behind this association.

METHOD: The literature was reviewed, between 1950 and 2008, using Pubmed, Embase and Ovid database searches. We utilized different combinations of the keywords: Streptococcus bovis, endocarditis, septicaemia and colon cancer/carcinoma. Quality assessment was determined using the Oxford Centre for Evidence-based Medicine Levels of Evidence (May 2001). Studies were selected based on their relevance to the aims to be addressed.

RESULTS: We included nine case reports and found 24 studies demonstrating an association between S. bovis bacteraemia/endocarditis and colon cancer; the reported incidence in studies was variable (6-67%). The majority of studies (20) were retrospective analysis of data; only four studies were prospective. A total of 12 of 24 studies also reported an association with extra-colonic malignancy (1-22%) and 12 with liver disease (3-57%). Eight studies relevant to the pathophysiology of this association were identified.

CONCLUSION: Streptococcus bovis endocarditis and/or bacteraemia is an early clue to the likely presence of colorectal cancer. Whilst further studies are required to determine the precise pathophysiology, clinicians should be aware of this association. It is advisable to investigate rigorously for colon cancer in all patients presenting with S. bovis endocarditis/bacteraemia; such patients may also present with liver disease or, occasionally, extra-colonic malignancy.

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