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  • Actinomycosis


    Actinomycosis is a bacterial infection that results in abscesses (collections of pus) in the jaw, abdominal cavity, lungs, or all over the body. This condition can be treated, so contact your doctor if you think you may have actinomycosis.
    Abdominal Abscess
    Abdominal Abscess
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    Actinomycosis is most often caused by infection by the bacterium, Actinomyces israelii . This is normally present in the mouth and, to a lesser extent, in the intestines. The jaw is most commonly involved, with lung and abdominal infections being less common. Very rarely, women may develop abscesses in the reproductive organs or bladder.

    Risk Factors

    Risk factors include:
    • Having a dental disease or recent dental surgery (for jaw abscess)
    • Aspiration (liquids or solids are sucked into lungs) (for lung abscess)
    • Having bowel surgery (for abdominal abscess)
    • Swallowing fragments of chicken or other bones (for abdominal abscess)
    • For women: having an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD) in place for many years (for abscess affecting the reproductive organs)


    Symptoms may include:
    • Hard swellings (usually painless) around the mouth, neck, or jaw, which may produce pus—You may see tiny, yellowish particles mixed in with the pus.
    • Drainage of pus through the skin of the chest or abdomen
    • Low-grade fever
    • Weight loss
    • Cough that produces sputum or blood
    • Noticeable swelling or firm mass in the abdomen, especially the lower part
    If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor.


    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
    • Analyses of pus, sputum, or tissue
    • X-ray


    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:


    High doses of antibiotics are used to treat actinomycosis.

    Drainage of Abscesses

    Your doctor will drain 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. Good dental hygiene includes:
    • Brush your teeth twice a day
    • Floss daily
    • Replace your toothbrush regularly


    American Dental Association http://www.ada.org/

    National Institutes of Health http://www.nih.gov/


    Canadian Dental Association http://www.cda-adc.ca/

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index%5Fe.html/


    Actinomycosis. DynaMed website. Available at: http://dynamed101.epnet.com/Detail.aspx?id=116458 . Accessed December 3, 2006.

    Actinomycosis. Merck website. Available at: http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec17/ch190/ch190b.html . Accessed December 3, 2006.

    Hall V. Actinomyces—gathering evidence of human colonization and infection. Anaerobe. 2008;14(1):1-7.

    Naik NH, Russo TA. Bisphosphonate-related osteonecrosis of the jaw: the role of actinomyces. Clin Infect Dis. 2009;49(11):1729-1732.

    Sullivan DC, Chapman SW. Bacteria that masquerade as fungi: actinomycosis/nocardia. Proc Am Thorac Soc. 2010;7(3):216-221.

    Revision Information

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