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Respiratory system
Respiratory system


Pulmonary actinomycosis is a rare bacterial lung infection.

Alternative Names:

Actinomycosis pulmonary

Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

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.


Signs and tests:

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

Tests that may be done include:


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.

Support Groups:

Expectations (prognosis):

Most people get better after treatment with antibiotics.


Calling your health care provider:

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.


Good dental hygiene helps prevent actinomycosis.


Goetz MB, Rhew DC, Torres A. Pyogenic bacterial pneumonia, lung abscess, and Empyema. In: Mason RJ, Murray JF, Broaddus VC, Nadel JA, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2005:chap 32.

Review Date: 5/19/2008
Reviewed 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.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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789 Central Avenue, Dover, NH 03820
Phone: (603) 742-5252
Toll free: 1 (877) 201-7100