Medical Definition of Mycobacterium

Mycobacterium: A large family of bacteria that have unusually waxy cell walls that are resistant to digestion.

The mycobacteria includes:

  • Mycobacterium avium -- which causes tuberculosis-like illness in birds and immunodeficient people;
  • Mycobacterium leprae -- which causes leprosy;
  • Mycobacterium marinum -- which causes swimming pool granuloma;
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis -- which causes tuberculosis; and
  • Mycobacterium ulcerans -- which causes Buruli ulcer.

The mycobacteria are acid-fast rod-shaped bacteria. They are usually slow-growing. Many are intracellular parasites.

Last Editorial Review: 9/20/2012

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