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Rapidly growing mycobacterial infections: Mycobacteria abscessus, chelonae, and fortuitum

David E Griffith, MD
Section Editor
C Fordham von Reyn, MD
Deputy Editor
Allyson Bloom, MD


Rapidly growing mycobacteria (RGM) include three clinically relevant species, Mycobacterium fortuitum, Mycobacterium chelonae, and Mycobacterium abscessus (table 1). The RGM are environmental organisms found worldwide that usually grow in subculture within one week (eg, rapidly, as compared with other mycobacteria). M. abscessus is the most commonly encountered species of this group isolated from clinical respiratory specimens, and M. fortuitum is the most common from non-respiratory specimens. Appropriate management of RGM depends on awareness of the differing susceptibility patterns of the different species and subspecies and the potential diagnostic limitations in distinguishing them.

The clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and treatment of RGM infections will be discussed here. The clinical manifestations and diagnosis of nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) pulmonary infection (other than those caused by RGM), microbiology of NTM infection, infection due to Mycobacterium marinum, and Mycobacterium ulcerans are discussed separately. (See "Overview of nontuberculous mycobacterial infections in HIV-negative patients" and "Diagnosis of nontuberculous mycobacterial infections of the lungs in HIV-negative patients" and "Microbiology of nontuberculous mycobacteria".)


The epidemiology of nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) infections is discussed separately. (See "Epidemiology of nontuberculous mycobacterial infections".)


The taxonomy and nomenclature for M. abscessus had been in flux but there are now three proposed M. abscessus subspecies:

M. abscessus subspecies abscessus (the organism traditionally labeled "M. abscessus")

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Mar 02, 2017.
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