A lung abscess is a pocket of necrotized lung tissue. Microorganisms such as bacteria, fungus, and parasites can infect lung tissue. The tissue dies and turns into a liquefied mix of dead matter and white blood cells or pus. Lung abscesses were fatal in 75% of all cases before the discovery of antibiotics. Access to modern medical care has increased the recovery rate to more than 90%, but lung infections are still life-threatening.
Primary lung abscesses account for 60% of all cases, and aspiration — breathing food particles into the trachea instead of the esophagus — is the most common cause. Bacteria on the particles enter the lungs, which lack the stomach acid that would kill them if normally ingested. Other common causes include sinus infections, infections in the teeth and gums, pneumonia, frequent vomiting, and acid reflux. Like food, stomach acid in the esophagus or mouth can enter the trachea and damage lung tissue.
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