By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor


What is nocardiosis?

Nocardiosis is a condition that is caused by Nocardia asteroides bacteria. These bacteria are commonly found in soil and water. People can be infected when they breathe in the bacteria or when the bacteria enter an open wound. A Nocardia infection most commonly affects the lungs, but it can spread to other areas of the body. The infection can be hazardous for people who have weak immune systems as a result of another medical condition, such as cancer or HIV. A doctor can detect nocardiosis by taking a tissue sample from the infected area and checking it for the presence of N. asteroides bacteria. The infection can be treated successfully with long-term antibiotics.

How common is nocardiosis?

In the United States, it’s estimated that 500 to 1,000 cases of nocardiosis occur each year. In about 60 percent of these cases, the infection is related to a weak immune system. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of nocardiosis?

The common symptoms of nocardiosis are:

The Lungs

Nocardiosis most commonly influences the lungs. If your lungs are infected, you may experience:

  • A fever
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • A cough
  • Night sweats

The Skin

The skin is the second most commonly affected area. If your skin becomes infected with Nocardia bacteria, you may experience:

  • open, seeping sores
  • ulcers
  • rashes
  • swollen lymph nodes

Other Areas

In some cases, the infection can spread to other parts of the body and cause varying symptoms.

If the infection spreads to your digestive system, you may experience:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Abdominal swelling

If the infection spreads to your brain, you may experience:

  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes nocardiosis?

Nocardiosis is a rare infection caused by the Nocardia asteroides bacterium. This type of bacteria can be found in the soil and water of regions around the world. People may become infected with the bacteria when they inhale it or when the bacteria enter an open wound. The infection can’t be spread from one person to another.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for nocardiosis?

There are many risk factors for nocardiosis, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Pulmonary alveolar proteinosis (an illness that causes the air sacs of the lungs to become plugged)
  • Connective tissue disorder (a disease that affects the tissue that connects and supports different parts of the body)
  • Alcoholism
  • Having a bone marrow or solid organ transplant
  • Taking high doses of drugs called corticosteroids

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is nocardiosis diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed and some tests will be also recommended by your doctor. Some tests may be ordered include:

A chest X-ray

It is an imaging test that produces detailed images of the lungs.

A bronchoscopy

It is a test in which your doctor uses a thin tube with an attached camera to view the lungs.

A brain biopsy

It is a procedure that involves removing a small sample of abnormal brain tissue.

A lung biopsy

It is a procedure that involves removing a small sample of abnormal lung tissue.

A skin biopsy

It is a procedure that involves removing a small sample of abnormal skin cells.

A sputum culture

It is a procedure that involves taking a small sample of mucus.

How is nocardiosis treated?

There are a number of complications can arise from this infection. These vary depending on the area of the body that has become infected:

  • A lung infection might lead to scarring or long-term shortness of breath.
  • A skin infection might lead to disfigurement or scarring.
  • A brain infection might lead to the loss of certain brain functions.

It is believed that all cases of nocardiosis should be treated with long-term and low-dose antibiotics known as sulfonamides. Treatment typically lasts from six months to a year. However, more severe infections may require treatment for a longer period.

If you develop an abscess due to this infection, your doctor may recommend surgery to drain it.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage nocardiosis?

There are no specific ways to prevent infection. People who have weakened immune systems should wear shoes as well as clothing covering the skin, open wounds, and cuts when they are working in the soil. This could prevent skin infections.

People who have an organ transplant might be given antibiotics to prevent bacterial infections. Some studies have shown that this might prevent nocardiosis.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: August 23, 2017 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019

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