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Actinomycosis is a bacterial infection that results in abscesses (collections of pus) in the abdominal cavity, jaw (cervicofacial), lungs (thoracic), or all over the body (generalized actinomycosis). 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 , which is present in the gums, teeth, and tonsils.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance for getting a disease or condition. The following factors increase your chance of developing actinomycosis. If you have any of these risk factors, tell your doctor:

  • Dental disease
  • Trauma
  • Aspiration (liquids or solids are sucked into lungs)


If you experience any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to actinomycosis. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your physician.

  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Drainage of pus through the skin
  • Small, flat, hard, sometimes painful swellings around the mouth, neck, or jaw, which may discharge pus
  • Sputum-producing cough


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include the following:

  • Analyses of pus, sputum, or tissue
  • X-ray


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


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 hygeine includes:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day
  • Floss daily
  • Replace your toothbrush regularly


American Dental Association

National Institutes of Health


Canadian Dental Association

Canadian Institute for Health Information


Actinomycosis. DynaMed website. Available at: . Accessed December 3, 2006.

Actinomycosis. Merck website. Available at: . Accessed December 3, 2006.

Last reviewed February 2008 by David Horn, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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