Actinomycosis is a bacterial infection that results in collections of pus in the body. This condition can be treated, so contact your doctor if you think you may have actinomycosis.
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Actinomycosis is most often caused by infection 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. Very rarely, women may develop abscesses in the reproductive organs or bladder.
Factors that may increase your risk of actinomycosis include:
Actinomycosis may cause:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
High doses of antibiotics are used to treat actinomycosis. The antibiotics will need to be taken for 6-12 months.
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. You should also:
Family Doctor - American Academy of Family Physicians
Mouth Healthy - American Dental Association
Canadian Dental Association
Actinomycosis. DynaMed website. Available at:
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Updated October 20, 2011. Accessed August 6, 2013.
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.
Last reviewed May 2014 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 6/20/2014