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Management of Actinomycosis in Bovines

A. Iqbal G. Mustafa A. K.Tripathi J. S. Soodan M. Irfan
Vol 2(1), 226-229

Actinomycosis, or lumpy jaw, is an important cause of economic losses in livestock because of its widespread occurrence and poor response to the routine clinical treatment. The present study describes a typical case of bovine actinomycosis in a 2 year cross bred heifer with a hard swelling at the level of second molar teeth on right ramus of mandible. Halitosis was also present. Tentative diagnosis was made through clinical signs. Carefull exploration of pus revealed a single whitish-yellow pinhead sized sulphur granule. Antibiotic therapy of broad-spectrum antibiotic was administered intramuscularly for five days.

Keywords : Actinomycosis Sulphur granules lumpy jaw Treatment


Actinomyces and the closely related Nocardia species, once believed to be fungi because of their branching filaments, are now classified as higher prokaryotic bacteria (Raymond and Foglia, 1998). Actinomyces bovis is the primary etiologic agent of actinomycosis or lumpy jaw in the cattle and is an important cause of economic losses in livestock because of its widespread occurrence (Blowey and Weaver, 1990). The losses occur directly from the debilitation of affected cattle and indirectly from the slaughter of animals. Actinomyces bovis is a symbiotic inhabitant of oral mucosa that gains access through the abrading and penetrating injury to the buccal mucosa and dental alveoli. Involvement of adjacent bone frequently results in facial distortion, loose teeth and dyspnea due to swelling in the nasal cavity (Thomas, 1998). The most common manifestation of this disease in cattle is a rarefying osteomyelitis of the bones of the head, particularly mandible and maxilla, though the rare cases may involve soft tissues, particularly the alimentary tract (Bertone and Rebhum, 1984). Various treatment protocols have been documented in the literature for the lumpy jaw but with sub-satisfactory responses (Nusbaum, 1965; Thomas, 1998; Brunton et al., 2005; Mettler et al., 2009). The present article describes a typical case of lumpy jaw in a cow which achieved complete recovery with systemic antibiotic therapy.

Case History and Observations

A two-year old, crossbred heifer of about 350Kg was presented with the complaint of a gradually increasing swelling at the level of second molar teeth on right ramus of mandible. Anamnesis revealed that the owner had increased the dry fodder (wheat straw) in the diet for last one month and the swelling appeared about 12 days ago. Animal had partially lost its appetite and its regurgitation frequency had decreased. Clinical examination revealed an immovable, painless, hard swelling at the level of second molar teeth on right ramus of mandible with no opening or discharge through the skin. The vital parameters of health (temperature, pulse, respiration) were within the normal ranges for cattle (Reece, 2004). The tentative diagnosis of actinomycosis was made on the basis of clinical signs, which was confirmed later by the presence of pus having an appearance of “sulphur granules” in the cavity of the lesion. The granule was crushed between two microscope slides and gram stained. Microscopic examination of stained smear showed gram negative bacilli, cocci and short filaments. The combination of clinical signs, microscopic examination of the pus and a sulphur granule confirmed the case as actinomycosis.

Treatment and Discussion

Traditional therapy for lumpy jaw includes oral or intravenous dosing of iodides and/or antibiotics such as penicillin and streptomycin but with variable results (Nusbaum, 1965; Brunton et al., 2005; Radostits et al., 2005. In the cow presently under discussion, the tentative diagnosis was made on the basis of clinical signs and was confirmed later on by the presence of pus like “sulphur granules” in the excised cavity (Blood and Studdert, 1988). Treatment was preceded with potassium iodide @ 7 g / day orally as a drench for 10 days, the period when iodism developed. Lacrimation, anorexia, coughing and appearance of dandruff indicated that maximum systemic levels of iodine have been reached. Dicrysticin @ 2.5 g I/M was given for 3 days and Mgso4 paste was applied topically for ripening. The animal fully recovered within 3 weeks of initiation of treatment. Oral KI or intervenous sodium iodide is a standard treatment for actinomycosis (Radostits et al. 2005). In actinomycosis response is usually dramatic and permanent as iodides have bactericidal effect against actinomycosis bovis. Early recovery of the disease might be due to use of Dicrysticin as adjunct to iodide therapy (Radostits et al., loc. Cit).


A 2 year old heifer suffering from actinomycosis, successfully treated with oral potassium iodide and systemic administration of dicrysticin is recorded.


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Blood, D.C. and Studdert, V.P. 1988. Bailliere’s Veterinary Dictionary. Bailliere Tindall, Philadelphia, USA, 880p.

Blowey, R.W. and Weaver, A.D. 1990. A Colour Atlas of Diseases and Disorders of Cattle. Wolfe Publish. Ltd. London, England, pp: 75.

Brunton, L.L., Lazo, J.S. and Parker, K.L. 2005. Goodman and Gilman’s The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics. 11th Ed, McGraw-Hill, New York, USA, pp: 1137.

Mettler, S.F., Brunner, and Lambrecht, J.T. 2009. Cervicofacial actinomycosis. Schweiz Monatsschr Zahnmed, 119: 239-251.

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Radostits, O.M., Gay, C.C., Blood, D.C., Hinchcliff, K.W. and Constable, P.D. 2005. Veterinary Medicine. 10th Ed, Saunders-Elsevier, New York, USA, pp: 935.

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Reece, W.O. 2004. Duke’s Physiology of Domestic Animals. 12th Ed, Panima Publish Co, New Delhi, India, pp: 895.

Thomas, S. 1998: Subject: Lump Jaw. http://beefmagazine. com/mag/beef_lump_jaw. Accessed. 2009.

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