Get exclusive member benefits & effect social change. Join Today
Pulmonary actinomycosis is a rare bacterial lung infection. It’s also known as thoracic actinomycosis. It’s not contagious.
This condition mainly affects people between 30 and 60 years old. It occurs more often in men than in women.
Treatment is generally successful, but it can be a lengthy process.
This condition is caused by bacteria from the genus Actinomyces. These bacteria normally live in your mouth and gastrointestinal tract. Most of the time they are harmless. However, they can cause an infection if tissue becomes damaged.
Infection usually occurs after illness or injury, like a tooth abscess or gum disease. The damaged tissue makes it possible for bacteria to move to your lungs or other parts of your body. There, it can cause harm.
In most cases, pulmonary actinomycosis occurs when a mixture of food and bacteria accidentally ends up in the lungs instead of the stomach. Inhaling food instead of swallowing is called aspiration.
Risk factors for this condition include:
Long-term alcohol use may weaken your immune system. Heavy drinkers are also more likely to aspirate vomitus.
According to one study, another risk factor may be hiatal hernia. This is a condition where part of your stomach pushes up into your chest. Research is still preliminary.
Symptoms of pulmonary actinomycosis generally start slowly. Common signs include:
Without treatment, pulmonary actinomycosis can destroy parts of your lungs. You could also develop a brain abscess or a brain infection called meningitis. This is potentially life-threatening.
Other complications include emphysema, and a serious bone infection called osteomyelitis.
Symptoms of pulmonary actinomycosis are similar to those of other conditions. Therefore, your doctor might have to perform several tests to confirm the diagnosis. These include the following.
Penicillin is the most common antibiotic treatment. It’s usually given as injections for two to six weeks. Then oral penicillin is used for six to 12 months. It can take up to 18 months of treatment for a cure.
If you’re allergic to penicillin, your doctor will prescribe alternate antibiotics like tetracycline or clindamycin.
You might need to have fluid surgically drained from your lungs. Excess fluid can lead to pulmonary edema. This condition is potentially life-threatening.
Surgery can also repair tissue damage in your lungs.
Good dental hygiene can help lower your risk. Keep your teeth and gums in good shape. This helps prevent bacteria from spreading to other parts of your body. To do this:
Written by: Amanda Delgado
Medically reviewed on: Jan 04, 2016: Steven Kim, MD
Enter your symptoms in our Symptom Checker to find out possible causes of your symptoms. Go.
Enter any list of prescription drugs and see how they interact with each other and with other substances. Go.
Enter its color and shape information, and this tool helps you identify it. Go.
Find information on drug interactions, side effects, and more. Go.