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Actinomyces israelii is a bacteria found naturally in your body.

It’s usually harmless, but sometimes it can cause a condition called actinomycosis. Read this lesson to learn about the symptoms and treatment options for this condition.

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What Is Actinomyces Israelii?

Actinomyces israelii is a species of bacteria that is commonly found in the human body, usually in the nose and mouth. Under normal circumstances, it is harmless to humans.

However, sometimes it moves further into the body through a break in the mucus membranes, and when this happens, problems develop.

A microscopic image of Actinomyces israelii
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When A. israelii gets into places in the body it shouldn’t be, it causes a bacterial infection called actinomycosis. This infection can occur with just A.

israelii, or it can occur when A. israelii bacteria join with other Actinomyces species, such as A. naeslundii, A. viscosus, and A. odontolyticus.Actinomycosis is rare in the United States but is more common in tropical regions of the world. It may also be referred to as Rivalta disease, big jaw, lumpy jaw, clams, and wooden tongue because of the side effects that commonly affect the mouth and neck.

Symptoms of Actinomycosis

Now that we know what Actinomyces israelii is, let’s take a look at the symptoms of actinomycosis. When the bacteria enters the body, it can form an abscess on the soft tissues. An abscess is a small, pus-filled sore. As the abscess enlarges over time, it can break through the skin’s surface, causing skin sores.These abscesses or lumps commonly affect the head and neck, and they can cause muscle spasms that prevent the jaw from moving properly (also known as lockjaw). However, they can also form in the lungs, stomach, and intestines, in addition to the mouth, nose, and throat.

Other common symptoms include fever, weight loss, coughing, chest pain, and excessive drainage from the sinus cavities. Symptoms may be slow to develop, but early treatment is key to a speedy recovery.

When A. israelii infects the body, sores begin to form on soft tissue. This image shows a scan of what that developing infection looks like under an imaging microscope.

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Treating Actinomycosis

As a bacterial infection, actinomycosis’ most effective treatment is antibiotics, such as penicillin. These can eradicate the bacteria but take a long time to do so–sometimes up to a year is needed to banish the infection.Severe sores may require medical treatment to encourage healing, and surgery might be required to repair damage to internal tissues. Though the treatment options are limited, they are usually effective at curing the infection.

If an infection goes without treatment, serious complications like bone necrosis (death of bone tissue) may occur.

Lesson Summary

Actinomyces israelii is a specific bacteria that is already found in the human body. Usually, it lives inside us without any problems, but the bacteria can invade through cuts in the skin or mucus membranes. When this happens, a bacterial infection called actinomycosis occurs.The most common symptoms are abscesses that form on soft tissues and result in seeping sores on the skin. Lumps on the neck and head are most common, but actinomycosis can affect other parts of the body as well.

Other symptoms may include fever, weight loss, coughing, or chest pains–these vary based on the location of the infection.Treatment options are limited, but usually a combination of antibiotics and surgery effectively eradicates the infection. A long-term dose of penicillin has been found to be effective for this condition.Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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