Long-term antibiotic therapy (usually with sulfonamides) for 6 months to a year (or longer depending on the individual and the parts of the body involved) is needed to treat nocardia. Frequently, chronic suppressive therapy (long-term, low-dose antibiotic therapy) is needed.
In addition, patients who develop abscesses caused by this infection may need surgery to completely drain the abscesses.
How well a person does depends on the parts if the body involved. There is a significant death rate if more than one site is involved (disseminated nocardiosis). In addition, an individual's immune system plays a large role in how well they will do.
Complications of nocardial infections vary depending on what parts of the body are 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.
Notify your medical provider if you have any of the symptoms described above. These are non-specific symptoms that can have many causes other than nocardial infections. If you have lung, skin, or brain symptoms -- particularly if you have a weakened immune system -- tell your doctor. You will need to be evaluated for several potential infections, including nocardia.
Sorrell TC, Mitchell DH, Iredell JR. Nocardia species. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2005: chap 252.
Southwick FS. Nocardiosis. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 351.
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