Nodular Cutaneous Lesions in Immune-Compromised Hosts as a Clue for the Diagnosis of Disseminated Nocardiosis: From Bedside to Microbiological Identification

Pathogens. 2022 Dec 31;12(1):68. doi: 10.3390/pathogens12010068.


Background: Nocardia is a group of ubiquitous bacteria known to cause opportunistic infections in immunocompromised hosts, including those affected by malignancies and solid-organ or hematopoietic stem cell transplants. Pulmonary involvement, occurring in two-thirds of cases, is the most frequent presentation. Diagnosis might be challenging both because of microbiological technical issues, but also because of the variability of organ involvement and mimicry.

Methods: We describe four cases of disseminated nocardiosis caused by N. farcinica observed between September 2021 and November 2021 in immune-compromised hosts presenting with nodular cutaneous lesions that had raised a high degree of clinical suspect and led to microbiological identification through MALDI-TOF MS.

Results: Cutaneous involvement is typically reported in immunocompetent hosts with primary cutaneous nocardiosis with multiple forms of manifestation; nonetheless, disseminated nocardiosis rarely involves the skin and subcutaneous tissues, and this occurs as a result of metastatic spread. Our cases were disseminated nocardiosis in which the metastatic cutaneous involvement, even if rare, provided a clue for the diagnosis.

Conclusions: The pathomorphosis of disseminated nocardiosis may have changed in the current years with more rapid spread due to advanced immunosuppression. For this reason, after clinical suspicion, the prompt start of an active targeted therapy based on rapid microbiological identification might potentially open the way to hopeful results, even in the most immune-compromised patients.

Keywords: MALDI-TOF; Nocardia; SOT; cutaneous; disseminated.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

Grant support

This research received no external funding.