atypical mycobacteria (also called non-tuberculous mycobacteria).
Atypical mycobacteria are common in the environment and can be found in water (including tap water), soil, food, and on animals. Occasionally atypical mycobacteria cause disease in humans. Examples of atypical mycobacteria include:
M. avium-intracellulare complex (MAC).
Most atypical mycobacteria are found worldwide, however, M. ulcerans which causes Buruli ulcer (also called Daintree or Bairnsdale ulcer) occurs mostly in tropical regions with pockets in other areas such as the Mornington and Bellarine Peninsulas in Victoria.
All mycobacterial infections, including atypical mycobacterial infections are a notifiable conditions1
How atypical mycobacterial disease spreads
The method of spread of atypical mycobacteria is uncertain but it is likely spread is through:
contamination of broken skin such as cuts or insect bites
injection of contaminated fluids
contamination of surgical wounds, medical equipment or implants
ingestion of contaminated food or drink
breathing in tiny particles containing the infectious organisms.
Signs and symptoms of atypical mycobacterial disease
Lymph node swelling, usually in the neck, which is painless and without other symptoms.
Skin and soft tissue infection
Skin and soft tissue infection with ulcers (for example, Buruli ulcer) or nodules, which can progress to involve tendons or bone.
Diagnosis of atypical mycobacterial disease
Diagnosis is confirmed by laboratory testing (culture or PCR) on clinical specimens such as bone marrow, sputum, abscess fluid, or ulcer biopsy. Several specimens may be needed to confirm the diagnosis as detection can be difficult. Laboratory results need to be interpreted with care and in conjunction with clinical findings as colonisation2 or specimen contamination may occur.
(time between becoming infected and developing symptoms)
The incubation period depends on the species of atypical mycobacteria. It ranges from a few days to several months.
(time during which an infected person can infect others)
Unknown. Person to person spread is rare.
Treatment for atypical mycobacterial disease
Seek expert advice. Treatment in hospital may be needed.
Antibiotic treatment may or not be needed and courses may be complex; in some cases several antibiotics may be needed for up to 2 years.
Surgical removal of the infected area may be needed.
Preventing atypical mycobacterial disease
Exclusion from childcare, preschool, school and work is not usually necessary
use appropriate infection control procedures during surgical procedures and piercings
do not inject non-sterile or unapproved substances such as those used in alternative therapies.
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