Actinomycosis is a bacterial infection that results in collections of pus in the body.
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Actinomycosis is most often caused by infection by specific bacteria. This is normally present in the mouth, and sometimes in the intestines. The jaw is most commonly involved, with lung and abdominal infections being less common. Rarely, women may develop abscesses in the reproductive organs or bladder.
Factors that may increase your risk of actinomycosis include: Having a dental disease or recent dental surgeryLiquids or solids that are sucked into the lungsHaving bowel surgerySwallowing fragments of chicken or other bonesHaving an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD) in place for many yearsDiabetesHaving a weakened immune systemMalnutritionTissue damageChronic granulomatous disease or other disorder that affects the immune system (children)
Actinomycosis may cause: Hard swellings that are usually painless and located around the mouth, neck, or jawSwellings that may produce pus containing tiny, yellowish particlesDrainage of pus through the skin of the chest or abdomenFeverWeight lossCough that produces sputum or bloodNoticeable swelling or firm mass in the abdomen, especially the lower part
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include: Analyses of pus, sputum, or tissueX-ray
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Actinomycosis is treated with long-term antibiotics and by draining pus-containing abscesses.
The best way to reduce your chances of developing actinomycosis is to prevent dental disease by practicing good dental hygiene and regularly visiting your dentist. You should: Brush your teeth twice a dayFloss dailyReplace your toothbrush regularly
Cervicofacial actinomycosis. DynaMed website. Available at:
Updated October 20, 2011. Accessed June 10, 2015.
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Last reviewed May 2016 by David Horn, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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