Mycobacterium marinum

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

How does a person get infected with Mycobacterium marinum?

Human infections with M. marinum under normal circumstances are rare. People are prone to this infection when there is minor trauma to an extremity like the forearm before or during contact with marine animals like fish or turtles, or just an aquarium, saltwater or freshwater.

However, people who have minor breaks in the skin such as small cuts or scrapes are at increased risk

  • when in contact with water from an aquarium or fish tank,
  • when handling, cleaning, or processing fish,
  • while swimming or working in fresh or salt water, or
  • while standing in contaminated water.

One form of the infection, known as "swimming pool granuloma," can occur when there is inadequate chlorination of swimming pools. However, in the U.S., most human infections with this bacteria have been associated with contact with fish tanks.

Are Mycobacterium marinum infections contagious?

M. marinum infection is not contagious; it is not spread from person to person. It is also not transmitted in hospitals like other common bacteria.

Who is at risk for Mycobacterium marinum infection?

People at highest risk include home-aquarium hobbyists, swimmers, aquarium workers, marine-life handlers, anglers, and oyster workers. Overall, anyone with frequent or persistent saltwater or freshwater exposure is at potential risk. Here is a list of at risk people:

  • personal home-aquarium owners
  • professionals who clean aquariums
  • marine biologists
  • fishermen and workers exposed to saltwater fish
  • immunocompromised patients (HIV/AIDS)
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/12/2016

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