Lemierre’s syndrome is a rare disease that occurs when a bacterial infection (usually a throat infection) spreads into the tissues and deep spaces within the neck and forms a blood clot in the jugular vein.
That began to change in more recent decades, with studies showing about 0.8 to 1.5 million cases a year being reported worldwide between the years 1970 to 2007, per the Cureus article. Some theories for the reasons behind this uptick include increases in antibiotic resistance and changes in prescription patterns due to the awareness of this growing problem.
Causes and Risk Factors of Lemierre’s Syndrome
F. necrophorum may cause Lemierre’s syndrome by releasing toxins into the surrounding tissue. It’s also been suggested that in some cases, a different bacteria or virus may be responsible for an initial infection, which can then set the stage for Lemierre’s to develop. These possible initial viruses and infections include Epstein-Barr virus and streptococcal infection.
- Being immunocompromised
- Environmental conditions
Duration of Lemierre’s Syndrome
How long you are affected by Lemierre’s syndrome depends greatly on when you get a diagnosis and begin treatment and how far your disease has progressed. Typically, doctors will treat patients with antibiotics for up to six weeks.
Complications of Lemierre's Syndrome
When an infected blood clot caused by Lemierre's syndrome travels in the bloodstream (septicemia), it can spread infection to the lungs, skeletal system, and other organs such as the spleen, liver, kidney, heart, or brain.
- Pneumonia, lung lesions, abscesses, and pleural effusions (water around the lung)
- Epidural abscess (an abscess between your skull and your brain)
- Brain abscess
- Respiratory distress syndrome due to pulmonary emboli (blood clots in the lung)
- Damage to other affected organs
- Septic shock (in about 7 percent of cases)
- Bone infection
- Soft tissue abscesses
- Pyomyositis (bacterial infection of the skeletal muscle)
- Abscesses in the spleen and liver
- Endocarditis (inflammation of the heart’s inner lining)
- Pericarditis (inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart)
- Renal abscess (kidney abscess)
- In rare cases, eye complications
Related Conditions and Causes of Lemierre’s Syndrome
Resources We Love
Genetic and Rare Disease Information Center (GARD)
Funded by the National Institutes of Health, this site lays out the key facts about Lemierre’s syndrome and other rare diseases, from causes to diagnosis to treatments.
This source from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) offers information about how Lemierre’s syndrome can affect the body and why early diagnosis is important.
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Lemierre Syndrome. Genetic and Rare Disease Information Center.
- Dasari S, Jha P. A Systematic Review of Lemierre’s Syndrome With a Focus on Ophthalmologic Complications. Cureus. July 21, 2020.
- Lee W, Jean S, et al. Lemierre's Syndrome: A Forgotten and Re-Emerging Infection. Journal of Microbiology, Immunology, and Infection. August 2020.
- Allen B, Anjum F, et al. Lemierre Syndrome. StatPearls. December 4, 2020.