St. Luke's Hospital
Located in Chesterfield, MO
Main Number: 314-434-1500
Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia


    Nocardia infection


    Nocardia infection is a disorder affecting the lungs, brain, or skin. It occurs mainly in people with weakened immune systems.


    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.

    Nocardia bacteria are found in soil around the world. You can get the disease by inhaling contaminated dust or if soil containing nocardia bacteria gets into an open wound.

    You are more likely to get thisinfection if you have chronic lung disease or a weakened immune system, which can occur with transplants, cancer, HIV/AIDs, and long-term use of steroids.


    Symptoms vary and depend on the organs involved.

    • Lungs (pulmonary nocardiosis):
      • Chest pain when breathing (may occur suddenly or slowly)
      • Coughing up blood
      • Fevers
      • Night sweats
      • Weight loss
    • Brain (cerebral nocardiosis):
      • Fever
      • Headache
      • Seizures
    • Skin:
      • May become chronically infected (mycetoma) and develop draining tracts
      • Ulcers or nodules with infection sometimes spreading along lymph nodes

    Some people with nocardia infection have no symptoms.

    Exams 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.

    Nocardiosis is diagnosed using tests that identify the bacteria. Depending on the part of the body infected, testing may involve taking a tissue sample by:

    • Brain biopsy
    • Bronchoscopy
    • Lung biopsy
    • Skin biopsy
    • Sputum culture


    Treatment involves antibiotic therapy (usually with sulfonamides) for 6 months to a year or longer. Sometimes, more than one antibiotic is given.

    You may also needlong-term, low-dose antibiotic therapy.

    Surgery may be done to drain an abscess.

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    How well a person does depends on your overall health and the parts of the body involved. Widespread infection (disseminated nocardiosis) hasa significant death rate.

    Possible Complications

    Complications of nocardial infections depend on how much ofthe body is involved.

    • Certain lung infections may lead to scarring and chronic shortness of breath.
    • Skin infections may lead to scarring or disfigurement.
    • Brain abscesses may lead to loss of neurological function.

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any symptoms of this infection.They are nonspecific symptoms that can have many other causes.


    Sorrell TC, Mitchell DH, Iredell JR, Chen SC-A. Nocardia species. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone;2009:chap 254.

    Southwick FS. Nocardiosis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 338.


    • Antibodies


      • Antibodies


      A Closer Look

        Talking to your MD

          Self Care

            Tests for Nocardia infection

              Review Date: 10/6/2012

              Reviewed By: 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. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

              The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

              A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.

              Back  |  Top
              About Us
              Contact Us
              Locations & Directions
              Quality Reports
              Annual Reports
              Honors & Awards
              Community Health Needs

              Brain & Spine
              Sleep Medicine
              Urgent Care
              Women's Services
              All Services
              Patients & Visitors
              Locations & Directions
              Find a Physician
              Tour St. Luke's
              Patient & Visitor Information
              Contact Us
              Payment Options
              Financial Assistance
              Send a Card
              Mammogram Appointments
              Health Tools
              My Personal Health
              Spirit of Women
              Health Information & Tools
              Clinical Trials
              Employer Programs -
              Passport to Wellness

              Classes & Events
              Classes & Events
              Spirit of Women
              Donate & Volunteer
              Giving Opportunities
              Physicians & Employees
              For Physicians
              Remote Access
              Medical Residency Information
              Pharmacy Residency Information
              Physician CPOE Training
              St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
              Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Notice of Privacy Practices PDF  |  Patient Rights PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile