A cluster of nocardial brain abscesses

Karina J. Kennedy*, K. H. Carlos Chung, Francis J. Bowden, Peter J. Mews, Justin H. T. Pik, John W. Fuller, K. Nadana Chandran

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Nocardia species are aerobic Gram-positive bacteria that are ubiquitous in the environment. Infection usually occurs through inhalation or direct cutaneous inoculation of the organism. It has been reported that infection is more common in warm, dry climates. Cerebral nocardiosis is an uncommon clinical entity, representing only 2% of all cerebral abscesses. It is an illness associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Case Descriptions: We report 4 cases of nocardial brain abscesses presenting to TCH, Australia, within a 1-year period. All 4 cases occurred in men without any significant underlying immunocompromise. In 3 of the cases, the diagnosis was only established after craniotomy. All cases were given prolonged antimicrobial therapy. After more than 8 months of follow-up, there have been no deaths or treatment failures. There has been only one other case of nocardial brain abscess at TCH over the past 15 years. We review the current literature on cerebral nocardiosis. Conclusion: Nocardial brain abscesses are uncommonly encountered at our institution. This cluster of 4 cases over a 1-year period has therefore led us to postulate that the severe drought may be aiding in the transmission of the bacteria. The cases also emphasize the propensity of nocardial infections to mimic other conditions, particularly malignancy, which may lead to delays in appropriate surgical treatment and antimicrobial therapy. The diagnosis requires a high clinical index of suspicion, with early tissue and microbiological diagnosis. Prolonged antimicrobial therapy is required to prevent relapse of the infection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-49
Number of pages7
JournalSurgical Neurology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes



  • Brain abscess
  • Brain abscess diagnosis
  • Brain abscess surgery
  • Climate
  • Corticosteroids
  • Environmental change
  • Nocardia
  • Nocardia asteroides
  • Nocardiosis

Cite this

Kennedy, K. J., Chung, K. H. C., Bowden, F. J., Mews, P. J., Pik, J. H. T., Fuller, J. W., & Chandran, K. N. (2007). A cluster of nocardial brain abscesses. Surgical Neurology, 68(1), 43-49. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.surneu.2006.08.067