Infection with Nocardia species: clinical spectrum of disease and species distribution in Madrid, Spain, 1978-2001

Infection. 2002 Dec;30(6):338-40. doi: 10.1007/s15010-002-2127-9.


Background: Clinical experience with nocardiosis is very limited in European countries. We describe 34 cases of nocardial infection seen at one Spanish teaching hospital.

Patients and methods: A retrospective review of the clinical features and outcome of nocardial infections was conducted during a 24-year period (1978-2001). All cases were confirmed by culture.

Results: Predisposing factors included immunosuppression and/or pulmonary disease in 85% of patients; eight cases were related to HIV infection. Most isolates were initially identified as Nocardia asteroides complex (97%). The most common clinical form was pulmonary disease (41%), followed by disseminated (15%), cutaneous (12%), cerebral (9%) and articular disease (3%). A high proportion of patients (20%) had pulmonary colonization. Therapy with sulfonamides, imipenem or amikacin was given to 26 patients and a clinical response was observed in 65%. Overall mortality among patients with nocardial disease was 48% (13/27) but only seven patients (26%) died from nocardiosis.

Conclusion: Nocardiosis remains a rare opportunistic infection that appears in immunosuppressed patients. HIV infection has become a common predisposing condition. The species distribution and disease spectrum are similar to those described in other European countries. Although most patients develop active disease, pulmonary colonization might not be as rare as has generally been assumed. Treatment with sulfonamides is usually effective and many patients may remain free of nocardial disease for a prolonged period.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nocardia Infections / drug therapy
  • Nocardia Infections / epidemiology*
  • Nocardia Infections / microbiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Time Factors