Actinomycosis is a rare type of bacterial infection. It can be very serious but can usually be cured with antibiotics.

Treatment for actinomycosis

Actinomycosis is treated with antibiotics. Treatment starts off in hospital with antibiotics given directly into a vein (intravenously).

When you're well enough to go home, you'll be given tablets to take for a few months.

It's important to keep taking antibiotics until they're finished, even when you feel better.

You might also need surgery to drain areas of pus (abscesses) and cut out the surrounding area if it's infected.

Contact your GP or specialist if:

  • your symptoms get worse or do not improve after leaving hospital

Get help quickly if treatment does not seem to be working. The infection can spread to other parts of your body and can be life-threatening.

How you get actinomycosis

The bacteria that cause actinomycosis normally live harmlessly in the body. They only cause an infection if they get into the lining of areas such as the mouth or gut.

You cannot spread the infection to other people.

Any part of the body can be infected, but the head and neck, chest, tummy and pelvis are most commonly affected.

How you get actinomycosis

Possible causes Symptoms
Jaw or mouth: tooth decay, an injury, dental surgery lumps on your cheek or neck, difficulty chewing, pus leaking from small holes in your skin
Lungs: inhaling liquid or food contaminated with the bacteria shortness of breath, chest pain, a cough, pus leaking from small holes in your skin
Tummy: burst appendix, surgery diarrhoea or constipation, pain, a lump or swelling in your tummy, pus leaking from small holes in your skin
Pelvis: leaving an IUD contraceptive coil in for too long pain low down in your tummy, vaginal bleeding or unusual discharge, a lump or swelling in your lower tummy

You cannot always prevent actinomycosis

Actinomycosis is very rare, so the chances of getting it are extremely small.

You can help reduce your risk by: