Actinomycete infections in humans--a review

Gene. 1992 Jun 15;115(1-2):201-11. doi: 10.1016/0378-1119(92)90560-c.


Diseases caused by pathogenic aerobic and facultatively anaerobic actinomycetes differ considerably with respect to their etiology, pathogenesis, clinical appearance and epidemiology. Facultatively anaerobic (fermentative) actinomycetes may not only be involved etiologically in the three classical forms of cervicofacial, thoracic and abdominal actinomycoses, but also in infections of the female genital organs, the eye, the tissue adjacent to dental implantation elements and tooth extraction wounds. The species distribution of the fermentative actinomycetes isolated from these conditions varied to a certain, but characteristic, extent, as did the concomitant actinomycotic flora. The sex ratio reported for human Actinomyces infections (male:female = 3:1) appeared to be restricted to actinomycotic abscesses and empyemas. The prevailing pathogenic, obligately aerobic actinomycete species in Germany was found to be Nocardia farcinica followed by Nocardia asteroides. The comparatively high incidence of N. farcinica infections was chiefly due to the occurrence of nosocomial postoperative wound infections by this pathogen observed in two German hospitals. Besides surgical treatment, immunosuppressive treatment appeared to be the most common factor predisposing for nocardiosis. Recent observations strongly suggested that the spectrum of human nocardial infections in Germany has been changing, as regards the overall incidence, the prevalence of N. farcinica, the sex ratio, the mean age of patients, as well as the role of N. farcinica as a possibly important nosocomial pathogen.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actinomycetales Infections*
  • Humans
  • Nocardia Infections*