Pulmonary actinomycosis is a rare bacterial lung infection. It is also known as thoracic actinomycosis. It is 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, such as 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 it 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 vomit.
According to a recent study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, another risk factor may be hiatal hernia. This is a condition where part of your stomach pushes up into your chest (Adreani, et al., 2009). However, 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 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:
Penicillin is the most common antibiotic treatment. Its 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 youre allergic to penicillin, your doctor might prescribe other 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: