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Definition of Mycobacterium

  • Medical Author:
    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.

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.

Reviewed on 12/21/2018

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