Argument: Circumcision creates risk of infections in infants

Issue Report: Infant male circumcision


Rosemary Romberg. “Circumcision – The Painful Dilemma. Chapter Eleven: Complications of Circumcision (Condensed)”. Bergin & Garvey Publishers, Massachusetts. 1985 – Infection

Infection of the fresh circumcision wound has been a fairly common complication. I have found more reports of this incidence than of any other complication. Infection has occasionally been accompanied with disastrous results, including death. Some of the other complications described elsewhere in this chapter, such as loss of penile skin, have resulted from infection of the circumcision wound.

Any open area of skin is a potential avenue for infection. Because the freshly circumcised infant penis is in constant contact with wet and/or soiled diapers, this area cannot be kept sterile. …

Particularly antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria and other infectious agents abound in hospitals. Newborn infants are not as able to resist infection as are older individuals who have built up more immunities. It is not uncommon for newborns in busy hospital nurseries to develop infections, particularly Staphylococcus-based. Sometimes babies do not manifest symptoms of infections until they are home from the hospital.

A 1960s study … cited the umbilical stump and the freshly circumcised penis as the major sites of highest concentrations of Staphylococcus aureus to be found, saying “the blood on the cord and the circumcised penis provide an excellent media for growing bacteria.” 20.

A wide variety of different infections with the circumcision site as port of entry have been listed by different sources. Besides Staphylococcus aureus, other infections include Staphylococcus epidemidis, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Escherichia coli, and Proteus mirabilis. 15.

Scurlock and Pemberton report four cases of “fulminating neonatal sepsis with meningitis.” In other words, infection of the circumcision site resulted in infection of the spinal cord and brain. 21.

In another report Annunziato and Goldblum describe severe staphylococcus infections originating from the circumcision site which they call “scalded skin syndrome.” They describe three cases of infants with skin red and peeling, pustules, circumcised area red, swollen, and covered with profuse thick, yellow-green exudate. The infants were feverish, lethargic, cyanotic, and had diarrhea. After administration of antibiotics, two infants healed normally and one died. 22.

Sussman, Schiller, and Shashikumar describe a type of infection which they call “Fournier’s Syndrome.” They describe three cases of this condition, one resulting from a burn, and two from infected neonatal circumcision. Their descriptions include extensive gangrenous ulcerations around the base of the scrotum, tip of the penis, and in the perineum, with the skin sloughing off. The infants healed following treatment with antibiotics, but scarring remained. 23.

Sauer reports a fatal staph infection following ritual circumcision. On the 13th day the infant exhibited fever, pallor, and lack of appetite. The circumcision blade had cut away a slight amount of the glans, which appeared to be the center of the infection. Antibiotics were given. On the 18th day of life several cc. of blood and mucus were vomited spontaneously and the infant expired before medical aid arrived. Autopsy revealed 6ver 50 gray abscesses in the lungs. The infecting agent was Staph Aureus. The circumcision wound was nearly healed at the time of death. 24.

Kirkpatrick and Eitzman describe two cases involving premature infants who developed infections after being circumcised with the Plasti-bell device.

Routine circumcision is often recommended because of the possibility of “infection.” In truth any part of the body can become infected. Intact men and boys can develop infections of the foreskin. This type of infection is invariably mild and local in nature. It usually can be remedied easily with proper washing, without resort to any drastic measures. This minor type of infection does not begin to compare with the potentially disastrous consequences of an infection of a fresh circumcision wound. It appears that authorities have been concerned about the wrong kind of infection.

“The Risks of Circumcision are Severe, Real, and Well Documented”. Opposing Views. – Newborn boys who have been circumcised have an open wound. They are at twelve-times greater risk of infection with life-threatening antibiotic-resistant CA-MRSA than intact boys. This is a new and emerging risk recently recognized by the CDC.

“Circumcision is Not Minor Surgery”. National Organization of Circumcision Information. Opposing Views – Infection—from trivial to life-threatening systemic infections are quite common, especially with the rise of deadly hospital MRSA infections.