INTRODUCTION: Diagnosis and treatment of acute tonsillitis are one of the most common problems seen at an otorhinolaryngology clinic in both adult and paediatric populations. Much has been written about bacteriology of recurrent tonsillitis but it remains a controversial topic. Despite the fact that tonsillitis is so common, consensus seems to be lacking as to the main causative organism and the differences between children and adults. The tonsillar core bacteriology of 233 patients with recurrent tonsillitis who underwent tonsillectomy from January 2000 to June 2003 is presented. METHODS: The patient population was divided into two groups, namely: the paediatric group and the adult group. 132 patients, whose age was more than 12 years, were in the adult group. 101 patients aged between two and 12 years, were in the paediatric group. The bacteriology of the children and adults were tabulated according to their species, and were compared. RESULTS: 138 patients grew single pathogenic bacteria in their tonsillar core culture, 52 grew two different pathogenic bacteria, and the rest (43) grew normal bacterial flora. Staphylococcus aureus was the most commonly-isolated bacterium and accounted for 40.9 percent of the total cultures isolated; its prevalence was the same in the adults and children. Beta-haemolytic Streptococcus was isolated in 23 percent of subjects, and was predominantly from group A (Streptococcus pyogens). Group A beta-haemolytic Streptococci was more prevalent in children. Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which rarely cause pathogenicity in tonsils, was cultured from nine (3.8 percent) of our study subjects. CONCLUSION: This study showed that Staphylococcus aureus is the most common pathogenic bacteria cultured both in adults and children. Klebsiella pneumonia, Streptococcus pneumonia, Escherichia coli and Enterobacter are more prevalent in adults. Haemophilus influenza and Streptococcus pyogens are more prevalent in children. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is not a rare causative organism in recurrent tonsillitis. Since the mechanism of activation of infection in recurrent tonsillitis is unknown, knowing the bacteriology does not help us to treat the disease. However, it may be a stepping stone to eventually understanding whether the bacteria play a role in reactivating recurrent infections. From previous and current studies, there is no relationship between bacteriology and recurrent infections.
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