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.

What specialists treat Mycobacterium marinum infections?

Many people who have skin infections will seek care from a primary-care physician, including family practitioners or internists, or a dermatologist. For severe cases, an infectious-disease specialist may be consulted. If the patient seeks care at an emergency department or urgent-care facility, he or she may be treated by a specialist in emergency medicine.

What tests are available to diagnose a Mycobacterium marinum infection?

Lab tests include cultures where a swab or sample is taken and grown in the laboratory. Cultures of M. marinum are fairly difficult to grow and usually may take several weeks in the lab. The culture may be negative, even if there is an active infection. Treatment may still be considered even if the test results are negative, especially if the patient's history supports past fish or fish-tank exposure.

In the absence of positive culture results, a skin or tissue biopsy may be a helpful test for diagnosis. This may help find the microscopic bacteria.

A special test called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) of tissue may be used in difficult cases to assist in naming the exact type of bacteria or Mycobacterium species involved.

Do fish get infected with Mycobacterium marinum?

Yes. There are probably two different types of M. marinum. One type only causes a longstanding (chronic) progressive disease in fish without affecting humans. The second type, which can infect humans, seems to cause a deadly sudden illness in fish.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/12/2016

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