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Classification & external resources
A patient with Actinomycosis on the right side of the face.
ICD-10 A42.
ICD-9 039
DiseasesDB 145
eMedicine med/31 
MeSH D000196

Actinomycosis (ak-tuh-nuh-my-KOH-sihs), is a rare infectious bacterial disease of humans generally caused by Actinomyces israelii, A. gerencseriae and Propionibacterium propionicus, though the condition is likely to be polymicrobial.[1] Characterized by the formation of painful abscesses in the mouth, lungs, or digestive organs, actinomycosis abscesses grow larger as the disease progresses, often over a period of months. In severe cases, the abscesses may penetrate the surrounding bone and muscle to the skin, where they break open and leak large amounts of pus.

Actinomycosis occurs in cattle and other animals as a disease called lumpy jaw. This name refers to the large abscesses that grow on the head and neck of the infected animal.

In 1877 pathologist Otto Bollinger described the presence of Actinomyces bovis in cattle, and shortly afterwards, James Israel discovered Actinomyces israelii in humans. In 1890 Eugen Bostroem isolated the causative organism from a culture of grain, grasses, and soil. After Bostroem's discovery there was a general misconception that actinomycosis was a mycosis that affected individuals who chewed grass or straw.

Causative organism

Actinomycosis is primarily caused by any of several members of the bacterial genus Actinomyces. These bacteria are generally anaerobes.[2] Actinomyces spp. normally live in the small spaces between the teeth and gums, causing infection only when they can multiply freely in anoxic environments. The three most common sites of infection are decayed teeth, the lungs, and the intestines.

Since Actinomyces bacteria are generally sensitive to penicillin, it is frequently used to treat actinomycosis.


  1. ^ Bowden GHW (1996). Actinomycosis in: Baron's Medical Microbiology (Baron S et al, eds.), 4th ed., Univ of Texas Medical Branch. (via NCBI Bookshelf) ISBN 0-9631172-1-1. 
  2. ^ Ryan KJ; Ray CG (editors) (2004). Sherris Medical Microbiology, 4th ed., McGraw Hill. ISBN 0838585299. 

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Actinomycosis". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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