Definition of Nocardia infection
Nocardia infection is a rare disorder affecting the lungs, brain, or skin. It occurs mainly in people with weakened immune systems.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Nocardia infection is a bacterial infection that usually starts in the lungs. It may spread to other organ systems — most often the brain and the skin. It may also involve the kidneys, joints, heart, eyes, and bones.
Symptoms vary and depend on the organs involved.
Signs and tests
Nocardia infection should be suspected in people with lung, brain, or skin symptoms if they also have a condition or conditions that weaken the immune system.
Long-term antibiotic therapy (usually with sulfonamides) for 6 months to a year (or longer depending on the individual and the parts of the body involved) is needed to treat nocardia. Frequently, chronic suppressive therapy (long-term, low-dose antibiotic therapy) is needed.
How well a person does depends on the parts if the body involved. There is a significant death rate if more than one site is involved (disseminated nocardiosis). In addition, an individual’s immune system plays a large role in how well they will do.
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 9/15/2010