What Is Nocardiosis?

Nocardiosis is a rare, but serious infection caused by bacteria in the Nocardia family. These bacteria are found in soil, and can cause infections in people with weakened immune systems, or those who have had a lung transplant.

The infection can range from mild to life-threatening, so prompt diagnosis and treatment is important. Nocardiosis is often hard to diagnose due to its rarity and its easily mistaken symptoms.

Symptoms of Nocardiosis

The symptoms of nocardiosis can vary depending on the severity of the infection and where it is located in the body. Common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Chills
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Night sweats

Risk factors

People who are at a higher risk for developing Nocardiosis include those with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV or AIDS, those who have had organ transplants, and those who are taking long-term steroids or immunosuppressants for conditions such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Smokers and people who live in very dusty areas are also at higher risk of contracting the infection.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Nocardiosis is usually diagnosed through a combination of a physical examination, medical history, imaging tests (CT scan, MRI or X-ray), blood tests, and a tissue sample (biopsy) from the infected area. Once the infection is confirmed, treatment usually consists of antibiotics for several weeks, depending on the severity of the infection. Surgery may be necessary if there is an abscess.

The prognosis for nocardiosis is generally good with prompt diagnosis and treatment. With antibiotics, most people recover and do not experience any long-term health complications.