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Alternative Names Return to topActinomycosis pulmonary
Definition Return to top
Pulmonary actinomycosis is a rare bacterial lung infection.
Causes Return to top
Pulmonary actinomycosis is caused by one of two types of bacteria -- actinomyces or propioni. These bacteria are 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 actinomycosis.
Actinomycosis in the lungs causes lung cavities, lung nodules, and pleural effusions. The disease is rare and may occur at any age, but most patients are 30-60 years old. Men get this infection more often than women do.
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
The infection often comes on slowly. It may be weeks or months a doctor makes a diagnosis.
Tests that may be done include:
Treatment Return to top
The goal of treatment is to control the infection. However, many patients take a long time to get better. You may need to receive penicillin through a vein (intravenously) for 4 to 6 weeks in order to be cured, followed by several months of penicillin by mouth.
If you cannot take penicillin, alternative antibiotics are available. These include tetracyclines, macrolides, or clindamycin.
Surgery may be needed to drain fluid from the lungs and control the infection.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Most people get better after treatment with antibiotics.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of pulmonary actinomycosis.
Also call if your symptoms get worse or do not improve with treatment, or if new symptoms develop.
Prevention Return to top
Good dental hygiene helps prevent actinomycosis.
References Return to top
Goetz MB, Rhew DC, Torres A. Pyogenic Bacterial Pneumonia, Lung Abscess, and Empyema. In: Mason RJ, Murray JF, Broaddus VC, Nadel JA, eds. Murray & Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2005: chap 32.Update Date: 5/19/2008 Updated by: Sean O. Stitham, MD, private practice in Internal Medicine, Seattle, WA; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Massachusetts General Hospital. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.