Nocardiosis

Nocardiosis is an infection caused by different members of the bacteria nocardia; N. asteroides, N. braziliensis, N. otitidiscavarium etc. Its manifestations range from infections of the skin, lung and central nervous system.

Where does it occur?

It occurs worldwide

How is it transmitted?

Humans commonly acquire the infection by breathing air containing the bacteria or when soil containing the bacteria contaminates open wounds and cuts.

Is it contagious from person to person?

It is not contagious from person to person.

What is the risk for travelers?

The risk is generally low

How soon after exposure will one develop symptoms?

Symptoms commonly occur few days to weeks after exposure.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Symptoms are generally those of a respiratory infection and include cough, fever, chest pain and shortness of breath. Skin disease is characterized by red nodules or abscesses.

The bacteria can enter the blood and spread to the brain resulting in an abscess with symptoms of fever, headache, weakness, seizure etc. A brain abscess that is seen along with pneumonia or skin abscess should raise suspicion for nocardia infection.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose the illness?

The bacteria can be seen on stains of infected body fluid and can be cultured in the laboratory

Is there any treatment?

Antibiotics like trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, sulfadiazine, imipenem-cilastatin, ceftriaxone, doxycycline etc are effective. Surgical drainage maybe needed for abscesses.

What preventive measures can be taken?

No specific measures are available.

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