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Year : 1997  |  Volume : 63  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 376-378

Mycobacterium Fortuitum in Cutaneous Infections

Correspondence Address:
B M Hemashettar

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 20944384

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Three cases of culture proven primary cutaneous infections caused by Mycobacterium fortuitum, a rapidly growing non tuberculous mycobacterium, are reported. The first case was treated with ciprofloxacin and the other two, with trimethoprim / sulphamethoxazole with an excellent outcome.

Keywords: Mycobacterium, Skin infection

How to cite this article:
Hemashettar B M, Pandit A M, Siddaramappa B, Manjun. Mycobacterium Fortuitum in Cutaneous Infections. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 1997;63:376-8

How to cite this URL:
Hemashettar B M, Pandit A M, Siddaramappa B, Manjun. Mycobacterium Fortuitum in Cutaneous Infections. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol [serial online] 1997 [cited 2021 Jan 17];63:376-8. Available from:

Rapidly growing mycobacteria are uncom­mon human pathogens. Two members of this group, Mycobacterium fortuitum Scientific Name Search  and M chelonae have been identified as opportunis­tic pathogens.

M. fortuitum is ubiquitously distributed in nature. They have been recovered from soil, dust, water, milk and even from saliva of healthy human beings. Till recently, the organism was considered to be a harmless saprophyte. Lately, there have been several reports wherein it has been incriminated in a variety of human infections. [1] Most investi­gators agree that these organisms are of rela­tively low virulence and infections are gen­erally associated with decreased host resis­tance or a heavy inoculum. [2]

In the present communication, we are report­ing three cases of culture proven primary cutaneous infections caused by this non tu­berculous mycobacterium.

  Case Reports Top

Case 1 A previously healthy, 37-year-old army man presented with multiple nodules on the anterior abdominal wall since one month. The first of the lesions appeared as a small nodule, gradually increased in size that led to suppuration and discharge of pus. Later on, other lesions developed. The patient gave history of trauma to the abdominal wall sev­eral months ago.

Examination of anterior abdominal wall showed three oval nodular lesions each mea­suring 2-21/2X 2-3 cms. They were non ten­der firm to cystic on palpation. Two more lesions which were not visible externally, could be felt on palpation.

Routine haematology, urinalysis and bio­chemical tests were within normal limits. HIV 1 and 2 and blood VDRL tests were non reactive.

Pus aspirated with aseptic precautions from the lesions, was inoculated on chocolate as well as on Macconkey agars and incubated at 37°c. Gram stained smear showed plenty of pus cells but no organisms. After 5 days of incubation, a number of small creamy white colonies appeared on chocolate agar and lactose fermenting colonies on Macconkey agar. The isolate was identified as M.fortuitum complex by standard tech­niques (R). After isolation of this unexpected pathogen, the pus smear was stained by Ziehl­Neelsen method and it showed acid fast ba­cilli. Based on sensitivity tests, the patient was advised tab. ciprofloxacin 500mg bid for 6 weeks. The recovery was complete and un­eventful.

Case 2 A 35-year-old woman was referred for a microbiological work-up with a clini­cal diagnosis of sporotrichosis / atypical mycobacterial infection. The patient had 3 nodular lesions arranged in a linear fashion on the extensor aspect of the right forearm since about 1 month. No other information in the history, general examination or routine investigations were contributory to the present illness. Pus from the lesions showed acid fast organ­isms and culture yielded M.foruitum complex. A course of trimethoprim / sulfamethoxazole was instituted for a period of 6 weeks. There was significant improve­ment when the patient was discharged.

Case 3 A 15-year-old girl presented with com­plaints of nodular lesions over the dorsum of the hand and the middle finger since 2 months. There were no constitutional symp­toms. General physical examination, routine haematology, clinical chemistry and serologi­cal tests were within normal limits. Aspirated contents of the nodules showed acid fast organisms, and the Mfortuitum com­plex was isolated in pure culture. The patient was treated with trimethoprim / sulfamethoxazole for a period of 6 weeks. The patient responded well to treatment.

  Discussion Top

Cutaneous lesions caused by Mfortuitum may occur in three clinical settings; a) post surgical, most commonly reported in sternotomy wounds, b) as a manifestation of disseminated disease, usually occurring in immunocompromised host with signs and symptoms of a systemic infection, and c) primary cutaneous infections (non surgical). The last type usually occurs as a localized infection in an otherwise healthy individual, with a history of trauma 1-2 months before developing symptoms at the involved site. When dissemination occurs, usually the primary source is unknown. Morphologically, the patients may present with abscesses, ul­cers, draining sinus tracts, cellulitis or ten­der erythematous nodules. Occasionally the lesions may be multiple and tend to be dis­tributed along the course of the afferent lym­phatics, simulating the lesions of sporotrichosis, often referred to as 'sporotrichoid mycobacteriosis. [3] All the three cases presented here could be included in this category.

Rapid growing mycobacteria as a group are resistant to conventional antimycobacterial agents used to treat tuberculosis but are susceptible to several other antibiotics. However, species vary in their susceptibil­ity to different antibiotics. Hence proper identification and speciation of the isolates are important for selection of appropriate an­tibiotics. The presence of tetracycline resis­tance genetic determinants in members of the group clearly precludes the use of tetracy­clines. [4] However, they are susceptible to amikacin, ciprofloxacin, sulfonamides, cefoxitin, imipenem, clarithromycin and azithromycin. [1] In addition to the antibiot­ics, drainage and debridement of the lesions is advocated.

Unlike infections of the lung, wherein dis­ease caused by acid fast organisms is fre­quently considered, cutaneous and soft tis­sue lesions are seldom considered as being caused primarily by acid fast organisms. Hence a delay in diagnosis is the rule rather than an exception. A high index of suspicion and diligent search for acid fast organism in all purulent samples wherein gram stainable organism in all purulent samples wherein gram stainable organisms are not demon­strated and inclusion of appropriate media with sufficiently long incubation period are likely to prove beneficial.

  Acknowledgement Top

We thank Dr. V.L. Jahagirdar, Professor of Microbiology, Dr. V.M. Medical College, Sholapur and the Directors of Tuberculosis Research Centre, Madras as well as National Tuberculosis Institute, Bangalore for con­firming the identity and sensitivity of the iso­lates.

  References Top

1.Hautmann G, Lotti T. Atypical mycobacterial infections of the skin. Dermatol Clin 1994; 12: 657-667.  Back to cited text no. 1  [PUBMED]  
2.Austin W K, Lockey M W. Mycobacterium fortuitum mastoiditis. Arch Otolaryngol 1976; 102: 558-560.  Back to cited text no. 2    
3.Singh G, Malik A K, Rodrigues P. Sporotrichoid mycobacterosis, Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 1996; 62: 133-134.  Back to cited text no. 3    
4.Pang Y, Brown B A, Steingrube V A, et al. Tetra­cycline resistance determinants in mycobacterium and streptomyces sp. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 1994; 38: 1408-1412.  Back to cited text no. 4    


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