Atypical Mycobacterial Infection Clinical Presentation

Updated: Sep 22, 2023
  • Author: Arry Dieudonne, MD; Chief Editor: Russell W Steele, MD  more...
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Suppurative cervical or submandibular lymphadenopathy that produces or does not produce systemic symptoms is the most common presentation of atypical mycobacterial infection caused by M avium-intracellulare and M scrofulaceum in the immunocompetent pediatric host. In a cohort of children infected with HIV prospectively monitored by Hoyt et al in 1992, recurrent and persistent fever and chronic anemia were the most common signs and symptoms, followed by chronic diarrhea and a history of recurrent abdominal pain with disseminated M avium complex (MAC) disease [42, 59, 60]

Weight loss, failure to gain weight, and wasting syndrome are part of the long-term presentations of disseminated MAC disease in immunocompromised children. Other signs and symptoms include leukopenia, hepatosplenomegaly, and persistent generalized lymphadenopathies. Ulcerative lesions of the colon and mesenteric disease with abscess formation have been reported. [60, 61, 62] Primary cutaneous infections with MAC are rare; most cases are caused by dissemination, with manifestations including scaling plaques, crusted ulcers, ecthymalike lesions, verrucous ulcers, inflammatory nodules, panniculitis, pustular lesions, and draining sinuses. [63]

Buruli ulcer is a chronic ulcerative skin disease, caused by M ulcerans, that mostly affects the limbs. The lack of acute inflammatory response is typical and is likely due to an immunosuppressive toxin called mycolactone, which is produced by mycobacteria. [38, 37] Buruli ulcer mainly affects children living in humid areas of the tropical rain forest. Following a microinjury, the organism penetrates the skin. A subcutaneous nodule develops a few weeks later, followed by necrosis of the subcutaneous fat and finally by a large dermal ulceration. Constitutional symptoms are normally absent.

Atypical mycobacteria may cause skeletal infections. A large outbreak of spinal infections after discovertebral surgery was reported in 2001. [64] Tenosynovitis, multifocal osteomyelitis, septic arthritis, protracted carpal tunnel syndrome, and spondylitis implicating M chelonae, Mycobacterium kansasii, MAC, or Mycobacterium xenopi have been described in the literature. [65, 66, 67, 68, 69] Keratitis and endophthalmitis after intravitreous injection of steroids or other ophthalmoscopic procedures secondary to M chelonae invasion have been reported. Although most of those infections secondary to atypical mycobacteria have been described in the adult population, cases of cutaneous mycobacteriosis manifesting as cellulitis, skin abscess, or sporotrichoid lesions secondary to M chelonae abscessus and M kansasii have been reported. M kansaii and M marinum have been reported in aquariumworkers. [70, 71] M avium– associatedtyphlitis mimicking appendicitis has been described in an immunocompetent host. [72]

Catheter-related infections are the most common nosocomial nontuberculous mycobacterial infections encountered. The fast-growing atypical mycobacteria, such as M fortuitum, cause most catheter-related infections. Patients with long-term central intravenous catheters are most susceptible. However, infections have occurred in patients with peritoneal and shunt catheters. Local catheter site drainage; tunnel infections; and mycobacteremia, with or without fever, are the usual manifestations, but granulomatous hepatitis and, sometimes, pulmonary infiltrates have been observed. Case reports of atypical mycobacterial infection in transplant patients due to M chelonae and M xenopi have been described in the medical literature. [73, 74]

Wright et al report 18 cases of infection associated with laparoscopic gastric banding caused by Mycobacterium fortuitum and M. abscessus in Australia during 2005–2011. The authors identified cases by reviewing positive cultures at the Queensland state reference laboratory or through correspondence with clinicians, and obtained clinical and epidemiologic data. Eleven cases of M. fortuitum and 7 cases of M. abscessus infection were identified. The port was thought to be the primary site of infection in 10 of these cases. Complications included peritonitis, band erosion, and chronic ulceration at the port site. Rapidly growing mycobacteria can infect both port and band and can occur as either an early perioperative or late infection. Combination antimicrobial therapy is used on the basis of in vitro susceptibilities. The authors concluded that device removal seemed to be vital to successful therapy. [75, 76]



Physical Examination

Immunocompetent children with adenitis secondary to MAC present with suppurative adenitis that may or may not produce constitutional symptoms such as fever. Fistula may be present with coalescence of involved cervical or mandibular nodes. In immunocompromised children with HIV/AIDS, no pathognomonic signs are present. Physical examination may reveal that a debilitated patient has a history of failure to gain weight, chronic fatigue, chronic diarrhea, and recurrent abdominal pain. Hepatosplenomegaly may be present. Early during disseminated MAC disease, some patients may not have fever and may not appear acutely or chronically ill. [55]