Pleural fluid cytology in prompt diagnosis of pleuro-pulmonary nocardiosis masquerading as COVID-19

Indian J Pathol Microbiol. 2022 Jul-Sep;65(3):716-718. doi: 10.4103/ijpm.ijpm_1036_21.


Introduction: There are few reports of nocardial infections among the Indian population. We report this case because of its rarity and unique presentation and to highlight the role of cytology in diagnosis.

Case details: A 74-year-old woman presented with fever and chest pain of a duration of 15 days. In view of the coronavirus disease (COVID) pandemic, she was given steroids. She developed breathlessness and was referred to a tertiary care hospital. Her pleural fluid cytology showed filamentous bacteria. A diagnosis of nocardia was confirmed by culture.

Discussion: Nocardiosis refers to the localized or disseminated infection caused by filamentous aerobic bacteria of the genus Nocardia. The clinical presentation of nocardiosis is highly variable. In our case, clinical misdiagnosis as COVID-19 and steroid treatment would have caused deterioration of nocardiosis.

Conclusion: All patients with pulmonary symptoms should be thoroughly evaluated before considering a diagnosis of COVID-19. Pleural fluid cytology can be of help in the diagnosis of nocardiosis.

Keywords: Bacteria; cytology; infectious cytology; nocardiosis; pleural fluid.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • COVID-19*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Nocardia Infections* / diagnosis
  • Nocardia Infections* / drug therapy
  • Nocardia*
  • Pleura