Background: Sphingobacterium spiritivorum is a glucose non-fermenting Gram-negative rod, formerly classified as one of the Flavobacterium species. It is characterized by a large number of cellular membrane sphingophospholipids. Sphingobacterium species are ubiquitous and isolated from natural environments, such as soil and water. However, they rarely cause infections in humans. Only a limited number of cases have been reported in elderly and immunocompromised patients with underlying diseases and predisposing factors. Case presentation: An 80-year-old Japanese man with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure visited the Kariya Toyota General Hospital, Aichi, Japan with the chief complaint of fever accompanied by chills and left leg pain. At initial presentation, he was distressed and dyspneic. He was febrile (38.8 °C), and his left foot was swollen with reddening and tenderness. We diagnosed him as having cellulitis, and he was hospitalized for antibiotic therapy. Initially, he was treated with intravenously administered cefazolin, but after the isolation of a glucose non-fermenting Gram-negative rod from blood cultures, we decided to switch cefazolin to intravenously administered meropenem on day 4, considering the antibiotic resistance of the causative organism. The causative organism was identified as S. spiritivorum on day 6. His condition gradually stabilized after admission. Meropenem was switched to orally administered levofloxacin on day 12. He was discharged on day 16 and treated successfully without any complications. Conclusions: Although S. spiritivorum is rare, with limited cases isolated from cellulitis, it should be considered as a causative organism in elderly and immunocompromised patients with cellulitis. Blood cultures are the key to correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
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