Actinomyces meyeri, a Common Agent of Actinomycosis

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Actinomyces, particularly Actinomyces israelii, may cause indolent, persistent infections or represent normal mucosal flora, leading to management dilemmas.

Materials and Methods:

Prompted by a refractory Actinomyces meyeri infection complicating AIDS, clinical data for all Actinomyces isolates at our hospital laboratory since 1998 were analyzed.


A total of 140 cases had a positive result for Actinomyces cultures. Of 130 cases with adequate follow-up, 36 (28%) cases had end-organ or disseminated disease treated with prolonged antibiotics or surgery or both (Group 1). A. meyeri was more common than A. israelii (33% versus 8%; P < 0.05) in Group 1, particularly thoracic infections. Another 56 (43%) cases were considered local pathogens, treated with drainage only or short-course antibiotics (Group 2). Another 38 (29%) cases were deemed commensals (Group 3). Immunosuppression was less frequent in Group 1 versus Group 2 or 3 (P = 0.05) and human immunodeficiency virus or AIDS was uncommon. Foreign bodies or devices (Group 1 versus Group 2 or 3, P = 0.003) and alcoholism (Group 1 versus Group 2 or 3; P = 0.03) were associated with actinomycosis. Isolates from the central nervous system and musculoskeletal sites were more often treated as definitive disease; skin, abdominal or pelvic or single blood culture isolates were more likely commensals (all P < 0.05). Disease progression or recurrence did not occur in Groups 2 and 3, whereas Group 1 had complex and variable courses, including 2 deaths.


In the absence of disseminated or end-organ disease, avoiding prolonged therapy for Actinomyces isolates was not associated with adverse outcomes. Alcoholism or foreign bodies were associated with actinomycosis. A. meyeri may be a more common cause of actinomycosis than previously recognized.

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