What is Actinomycosis?

Actinomycosis is a rare, chronic bacterial infection primarily caused by the bacteria Actinomyces. The bacteria, which are a type of 'anaerobic' bacteria, live in low-oxygen environments and are typically found in the mouth, intestine and vagina. While Actinomyces are common and typically harmless, in some cases, they can cause disease. In the case of Actinomycosis, the bacteria can enter into the body via a wound or surgery, and cause an infection of the underlying tissues.

The most common sites for Actinomycosis are the face and neck, but the infection can also affect other parts of the body, such as the abdomen, chest, pelvis and even the lungs. The infection is typically chronic and can take months to years to resolve with appropriate treatment.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of Actinomycosis vary depending on the location of the infection, but can include swelling, pain, fever, pus and abscess formation. In some cases, tumors may form due to the infection and the bacteria can spread to other organs in the body, such as the liver, spleen and lymph nodes.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Actinomycosis can be difficult to diagnose due to its similarity to other conditions. Diagnosis is typically made with the help of a physical examination, laboratory tests and imaging studies such as CT scans or MRIs. Treatment typically consists of antibiotics and, in some cases, surgery may be required to remove any abscesses that have formed.


Complications from Actinomycosis can occur in some cases, especially if the infection is allowed to spread throughout the body. Complications can include lung abscesses, sepsis and multi-organ failure.


Actinomycosis can be prevented by avoiding situations that put you at risk of infection, such as not using contaminated needles or other medical equipment and avoiding contact with anyone who has an active infection.

Tips to Reduce the Risk

  • Practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands frequently.
  • Avoid contact with anyone who has an active infection.
  • Use sterile equipment when injecting drugs.
  • Avoid using contaminated needles or other medical equipment.
  • If you’re undergoing surgery or any medical procedure, make sure the equipment is sterile.
  • See your doctor and get any wounds checked out as soon as possible.
  • Keep track of any medical equipment you’re using and get it replaced if it becomes contaminated.