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Increasing Incidence of Streptococcus anginosus Group Intracranial Infections Associated With Sinusitis, Otitis Media, and Mastoiditis in Children.

BACKGROUND: The Streptococcus anginosus group (SAG) pathogens have the potential to cause head and neck space infections, including intracranial abscesses. Several centers noted an increase in intracranial abscesses in children during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, prompting a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention health alert in May 2022. We examined the epidemiology of pediatric intracranial abscesses at a tertiary care center with a focus on SAG pre- and post-pandemic.

METHODS: Cases of intracranial abscesses of any microbiologic etiology admitted from January 2011 to December 2022 were identified using International Classification of Diseases 10 codes. Subjects were cross-referenced with culture results from the microbiology laboratory at Texas Children's Hospital. Cases included were those associated with either otitis media, mastoiditis or sinusitis and medical records were reviewed.

RESULTS: A total of 157 cases were identified and 59.9% (n = 94) were caused by SAG. The incidence of all sinogenic/otogenic intracranial infections (P = 0.002), and SAG-specific infections (P = 0.004), increased from 2011 to 2022. SAG infection was more often associated with multiple surgeries, and these subjects were more likely to require craniotomy or craniectomy. Among sinogenic abscesses, S. intermedius was the most common pathogen, while among otogenic cases, S. pyogenes predominated. From March 2020 to Dec 2022, 9/49 cases tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 (18.4%); characteristics of infection were not significantly different among cases with and without SARS-CoV-2.

CONCLUSIONS: Over the last decade, intracranial complications of sinusitis/otitis have been increasing, specifically those caused by SAG; this trend, however, predated the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. SAG was associated with a greater need for surgical intervention, specifically neurosurgery. Further work is necessary to determine the cause for these rising infections.

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