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 is the treatment for a Mycobacterium marinum infection?

Most infections are treated medically with a fairly long course of oral antibiotics. The length of the course of antibiotics varies. Medications may be required anywhere from three to six months or even up to 18 months depending on the severity of the disease and spread of the infection. Typically, physicians may recommend continuing the medications for an additional four to six weeks even after all of the symptoms have fully cleared.

The gold standard for treatment of infection by M. marinum is oral antibiotics. Clarithromycin with ethambutol is currently the preferred antibiotic selection. Rifampin is typically added to the antibiotics regimen if deeper organ infection is present, such as bone infection (osteomyelitis).

Some milder infections (mainly in healthy people) have cleared on their own without any treatment. Rarely, surgical treatment and drainage of deeper tissue or skin infections may become necessary in more complicated cases. However, medical treatment remains the primary and preferred treatment for nearly all cases.

What is the prognosis for those infected with Mycobacterium marinum?

The prognosis is excellent for a complete cure with a proper, full course of oral antibiotics and good medical follow-up with your physician. There are no long-term problems after treatment.

What are possible complications from Mycobacterium marinum?

M. marinum infections are usually localized and typically do not spread past the skin in healthy people. Most patients with a normal immune system don't experience other complications. However, undetected or untreated, the infection may progress and cause deeper and more longstanding infections. Some rare potential problems include infection of the underlying bone called osteomyelitis, infection of the deep muscle tendons called tenosynovitis, inflammation of the joints called arthritis, and widespread bodily infections called disseminated disease. Patients with an impaired immune system (immunocompromised) may be much more prone to these more serious complications.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/12/2016

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