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TAXONOMY: Bacteria -> Terrabacteria group -> Actinobacteria -> Actinobacteria -> Corynebacteriales -> Nocardiaceae -> Nocardia
Nocardia is a genus of weakly staining Gram-positive, catalase-positive, rod-shaped bacteria. It forms partially acid-fast beaded branching filaments (acting as fungi, but being truly bacteria). It contains a total of 85 species. Some species are nonpathogenic, while others are responsible for nocardiosis. Nocardia species are found worldwide in soil rich in organic matter. In addition, they are oral microflora found in healthy gingiva, as well as periodontal pockets. Most Nocardia infections are acquired by inhalation of the bacteria or through traumatic introduction. Nocardia asteroides is most frequently found species infecting humans, and most cases occur as an opportunistic infection in immunocompromised patients. Other species of medical interest are N. brasiliensis and N. caviae. Because it is acid-fast to some degree, it stains only weakly Gram positive.
The most common form of human nocardial disease is a slowly progressive pneumonia, the common symptoms of which include cough, dyspnea (shortness of breath), and fever. It is not uncommon for this infection to spread to the pleura or chest wall. Pre-existing pulmonary disease, especially pulmonary alveolar proteinosis, increases the risk of contracting a Nocardia pneumonia. Every organ can be affected if a systemic spread takes place.