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Disease Profile


Prevalence estimates on Rare Medical Network websites are calculated based on data available from numerous sources, including US and European government statistics, the NIH, Orphanet, and published epidemiologic studies. Rare disease population data is recognized to be highly variable, and based on a wide variety of source data and methodologies, so the prevalence data on this site should be assumed to be estimated and cannot be considered to be absolutely correct.


US Estimated

Europe Estimated

Age of onset





Autosomal dominant A pathogenic variant in only one gene copy in each cell is sufficient to cause an autosomal dominant disease.


Autosomal recessive Pathogenic variants in both copies of each gene of the chromosome are needed to cause an autosomal recessive disease and observe the mutant phenotype.


dominant X-linked dominant inheritance, sometimes referred to as X-linked dominance, is a mode of genetic inheritance by which a dominant gene is carried on the X chromosome.


recessive Pathogenic variants in both copies of a gene on the X chromosome cause an X-linked recessive disorder.


Mitochondrial or multigenic Mitochondrial genetic disorders can be caused by changes (mutations) in either the mitochondrial DNA or nuclear DNA that lead to dysfunction of the mitochondria and inadequate production of energy.


Multigenic or multifactor Inheritance involving many factors, of which at least one is genetic but none is of overwhelming importance, as in the causation of a disease by multiple genetic and environmental factors.


Not applicable


Other names (AKA)

Anaerobic actinomyces infection; Canaliculitis; Keratoactinomycosis;


Actinomycosis is a bacterial infection that occurs most often in the face and neck. Symptoms of actinomycosis include a neck mass, jaw or face pain, and formation of pockets of pus (abscess). When actinomycosis occurs in other parts of the body, symptoms can include cough, chest or stomach pain, fever, and weight loss. It is usually caused by bacteria called Actinomyces israelii. These bacteria are found normally in the mouth, gastrointestinal tract, and female genital tract, and do not cause an infection unless there is a break in the skin or mucosa. The infection is not contagious. Actinomycosis is diagnosed based on the history and clinical exam, and through specific laboratory tests. It is treated with antibiotics.[1][2][3]


The following list includes the most common signs and symptoms in people with actinomycosis. These features may be different from person to person. Some people may have more symptoms than others and symptoms can range from mild to severe. This list does not include every symptom or feature that has been described in actinomycosis.

Symptoms of actinomycosis of the face or neck may include:[1][3][4]

  • Neck or face mass
  • Pockets of pus (abscess)
  • Jaw or face pain
  • Difficulty opening jaw (lockjaw or trismus)

When actinomycosis occurs in chest or stomach, symptoms may include cough, chest or stomach pain, fever, and weight loss. When it occurs in the pelvic area, symptoms may include pain, vaginal bleeding, and swelling.

Actinomycosis mainly affects adults but has been reported in children as well. The first symptom is usually the presence of a soft mass in the neck. Once a diagnosis is made, treatment with antibiotics usually leads to recovery.[1][3]


Actinomycosis is caused by a type of bacteria from the Actinomyces family. Most infections are due to Actinomyces israelli. These bacteria are found normally in the mouth, gastrointestinal, and genital tract of most people. They only causes an infection when there is a break in the skin or mucous membranes.[3]

Risk factors for an infection from actinomyces bacteria include a history of diabetes, alcoholism, seizure disorder, or surgical procedure. Other risk factors include poor dental hygiene, malnutrition, and long-term use of an intrauterine device (IUD).[5] 

Actinomycosis is not contagious.[1]


Actinomycosis is diagnosed based on the clinical history, exam, and specific laboratory tests. The most commonly used test is a tissue biopsy of the infected area to look for the presence of the bacteria that cause this infection.[1]

Because it is so rare, actinomycosis can be mistaken for other conditions and can be difficult to diagnose.[5]


Antibiotics are used to treat actinomycosis. Treatment may last several weeks and usually results in full recovery. Sometimes surgery is done to reduce the size of the mass.[3][5]

Specialists involved in the care of someone with actinomycosis include:

  • Infectious disease specialist
  • Dentist or oral surgeon

Learn more

These resources provide more information about this condition or associated symptoms. The in-depth resources contain medical and scientific language that may be hard to understand. You may want to review these resources with a medical professional.

Where to Start

  • DermNet NZ is an online resource about skin diseases developed by the New Zealand Dermatological Society Incorporated. DermNet NZ provides information about this condition.
  • MedlinePlus was designed by the National Library of Medicine to help you research your health questions, and it provides more information about this topic.
  • The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library provides information on this condition for patients and caregivers.

In-Depth Information

  • Medscape Reference provides information on this topic. You may need to register to view the medical textbook, but registration is free.
  • The Monarch Initiative brings together data about this condition from humans and other species to help physicians and biomedical researchers. Monarch’s tools are designed to make it easier to compare the signs and symptoms (phenotypes) of different diseases and discover common features. This initiative is a collaboration between several academic institutions across the world and is funded by the National Institutes of Health. Visit the website to explore the biology of this condition.
  • PubMed is a searchable database of medical literature and lists journal articles that discuss Actinomycosis. Click on the link to view a sample search on this topic.


  1. Sharma S, Hashmi MF, Valenino III DJ. Actinomycosis. StatPearls. May 2020; 2020:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29489261.
  2. Paulo CO, Jordão S, Correia-Pinto J, Ferreira F, Neves I. Actinomycosis, a lurking threat: a report of 11 cases and literature review. Rev Soc Bras Med Trop. 2018; 51(1):7-13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29513846.
  3. Boyanova L, Kolarov R, Mateva L, Markovska R, Mitov I. Actinomycosis: a frequently forgotten disease. Future Microbiol. 2015; 10(4):613-628. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25865197.
  4. Savoca E, Mehra S, Waldman EH. A case of pediatric cervicofacial actinomyces masquerading as malignancy: Case report and review of the literature. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2019; 116:204-208. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30554700.
  5. Stájer A, Ibrahim B, Gajdács M, Urbán E, Baráth Z. Diagnosis and Management of Cervicofacial Actinomycosis: Lessons from Two Distinct Clinical Cases. Antibiotics (Basel). 2020; 9(4):139. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32218154.

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