Kinkajou (Potos flavus) is an omnivorous rainforest mammal that lives in the tropical forests of Central and South America. It is considered related to raccoons despite its resemblance to primates. The current medical literature lacks specific guidelines for the medical management of Kinkajou bites and any subsequent soft tissue infections. The goal of this article is to outline basic guidelines for primary healthcare providers in their approach toward managing patients with kinkajou bites that have either a high risk of soft tissue infection or present with soft tissue infections at the bite site.
Animal bites, in general, account for 1% of the total emergency department (ED) visits, which are approximately 2 to 5 million ED patients annually. Ten percent of those patients presenting in the ED requires suturing, and only 1% to 2% need hospitalization for treatment with intravenous (IV) antibiotics or observation. Any animal bite, including kinkajou bites, warrants proper inspection to evaluate their capacity to become infectious.
Animal bites account for significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. Most patients presenting to the ED with animal bites usually have been bitten by dogs and cats. Kinkajou bites, although rare, must undergo an evaluation with similar urgency. Medical literature on kinkajou bites is scarce, and the only reported bacterial isolates from kinkajou bites are that of alpha-hemolytic streptococci, mixed anaerobic bacteria, and Kingella potus which forms the bulk of the strains.
Reported isolates were from a female zookeeper who had to undergo exploratory surgery of her hand due to suspected infection of her flexor tendons after a kinkajou bite. She was treated successfully with clarithromycin, ciprofloxacin, and metronidazole for 14 days.
The only other case of a kinkajou bite in literature reports zoonotic transmission of Blastomyces dermatitidis to a man from his pet kinkajou after a bite. This reported patient had a recalcitrant infection after being on antibiotics. Physical exam findings suggested chronic ascending lymphadenitis, and he fully recovered after being treated with itraconazole for six months.
Most animal bites presenting to the emergency department are due to dogs and cats; kinkajou bites are rare. There are no reported incidence rates of kinkajou bites in the United States. Based on case reports in the literature, caretakers of these kinkajous have the most bite wounds.
Kinkajou bite wounds both in literature and including the author's one reported case had been small puncture wounds with minimal tissue tear. There is no reported blunt force trauma to the bones. Following the bite injury, there are reports of soft tissue infections treated successfully with antibiotics. The wound discussed in this case was narrow and deep, with the mechanism of the bite described by the patient as biting and holding down.
Clinicians should take a detailed history and physical exam of every patient with a kinkajou bite. These should include information about the circumstances surrounding the bite incident, for example, the bite location and how long it took the patient to seek medical care after the bite. The patient might need local anesthesia during the exploration of the bite site.
A patient's bite site should have a thorough evaluation to assess for underlying neurovascular compromise or foreign body presence. The patient must be provided with appropriate pain management for associated swelling at the bite site. An active and passive range of motion testing should be performed to assess for underlying tendon involvement. The patient further is evaluated for the need for any imaging at the bite site such as X-ray, ultrasound, MRI, or CT. If need be, a patient should be taken to the operating room for irrigation and exploration under local anesthesia.
Given the lack of literature and guidelines on how to manage kinkajou bites and subsequent development of cellulitis, the following is a proposed protocol based on the reported case and current animal bite treatment and management guidelines.
The following should merit consideration in the differential diagnosis:
With prompt evaluation by a qualified health care provider and interprofessional team, prognosis is good.
If the bite wound is not cleaned and adequately and inspected, complications such as cellulitis or abscess formation may occur.
Consider consulting infectious disease organizations for antibiotic management. Surgical consultation may be warranted if there is concern about the involvement of underlying structures or foreign body removal.
A kinkajou is considered an exotic pet, and pet ownership seems to be a growing trend in the United States. The reported patient was at a gas station where she tried to be friendly with a truck driver's pet kinkajou when it bit her. The truck driver, with his pet, escaped when the women decided to get help.
Kinkajou bites are very rare in the U.S. and only seen in zookeepers and pet owners. This wild animal from South America has razor-sharp teeth, but its bites are not deep. In general, the majority of kinkajou bites are manageable in the emergency department physician, nurse practitioner, and the primary care provider. Kinkajou bites require the usual tetanus prophylaxis, rabies vaccine, and wound cleaning. In most cases, antibiotics are prescribed to prevent the development of cellulitis or osteomyelitis. The majority of patients have a good outcome after treatment. An interprofessional team approach to treating these injuries should yield favorable results without any long-term sequelae.
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