Reference Index - Disease & Conditions

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Respiratory system
Respiratory system


Pulmonary actinomycosis

Definition:

Pulmonary actinomycosis is a rare bacterial lung infection.



Alternative Names:

Actinomycosis - pulmonary



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Pulmonary actinomycosis is caused by a species of bacteria normally found in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract, where they do not usually cause harm. However, poor dental hygiene and dental abscess can increase your risk for face, jaw, and lung infections caused by these bacteria.

Alcohol abuse, having scars on the lungs (bronchiectasis), and emphysema are all associated with lung infections caused by actinomycosis.

The disease is rare in the U.S., with only about 100 confirmed cases per year. It may occur at any age, but most patients are 30 - 60 years old. Men get this infection more often than women do.



Symptoms:

The infection usually comes on slowly. It may be weeks or months before a doctor makes a diagnosis.

Symptoms include:



Signs and tests:

Tests that may be done include:



Treatment:

The goal of treatment is to cure the infection. However, many patients take a long time to get better. To be cured, you may need to receive penicillin through a vein (intravenously) for 4 - 6 weeks, followed by several months of penicillin by mouth. Some people need up to 18 months of treatment.

If you cannot take penicillin, other antibiotics are available. These include tetracyclines, macrolides, or clindamycin.

Surgery may be needed to drain fluid from the lungs and control the infection.



Support Groups:



Expectations (prognosis):

Most people get better after treatment with antibiotics.



Complications:

Calling your health care provider:

Call your health care provider if:

  • You have symptoms of pulmonary actinomycosis
  • Your symptoms get worse or do not improve with treatment
  • You develop new symptoms


Prevention:

Good dental hygiene may help reduce your risk of getting actinomycosis.



References:

Brook I. Actinomycosis. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 350.




Review Date: 5/25/2010
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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