How do I manage nocardiosis?

Ili Margalit*, David Lebeaux, Ori Tishler, Elad Goldberg, Jihad Bishara, Dafna Yahav, Julien Coussement

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Nocardiosis is a rare infection that is often difficult to treat and may be life-threatening. There is no consensus on its management. Objectives: Our aim was to provide the current evidence for the diagnosis and management of individuals with nocardiosis, and to propose a management approach for this uncommon infection. Sources: We systematically searched the medical literature on nocardiosis for studies published between 2010 and 2020 and describing ten or more individuals. Content: Nocardiosis, a primarily opportunistic infection which may occur in immunocompetent persons, most commonly involves the lungs and frequently disseminates to other sites including the central nervous system. The reference standard for Nocardia species identification is molecular biology, and the preferred method for antibiotic susceptibility testing (AST) is broth microdilution. Monotherapy seems appropriate for patients with primary skin nocardiosis or non-severe pulmonary disease; we reserve a multidrug regimen for more severe infections. Species identification and AST results are often missing at initiation of antibiotics. Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole is the preferred agent for initial therapy, because Nocardia is very often susceptible to this agent, and because it has been the keystone of nocardiosis treatment for years. Linezolid, to which Nocardia is almost always susceptible, may be an alternative. When combination therapy is required, the repertoire of companion drugs includes third-generation cephalosporins, amikacin and imipenem. Therapeutic modifications should take into account clinical response to initial therapy and AST results. Treatment duration of 6 months is appropriate for most situations, but longer durations are preferred for disseminated nocardiosis and shorter durations are reasonable in low-risk situations. Secondary prophylaxis may be considered in selected individuals with permanent immunosuppression. Implications: We hereby provide the clinician with an easy-to-use algorithm for the management of individuals with nocardiosis. We also illuminate gaps in evidence and suggest future research directions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)550-558
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Microbiology and Infection
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Management
  • Nocardia
  • Nocardiosis
  • Systematic review
  • Treatment failure


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