Two Uncommon Mycobacteria Sources You Should Know About

Mycobacteria are nasty little pathogens, commonly water borne, which create a host of related illnesses including Mycobacterium Abscessus; this devastating, hearty organism is quite drug resistant and patients usually undergo IV therapy for eradication. While there are various transmission routes of Mycobacterium abscessus, one route has been linked to two separate dental offices, one in GA, one in CA; both affected a small percentage of pediatric patients. The transmission origin was water lines – the hoses used to rinse teeth and perhaps the water used in the hoses; all of the children who became infected in GA and CA were exposed while undergoing pulpotomies or baby root canals and had to be hospitalized; a portion of those had to have surgeries to remove infected tissue, including teeth and in one severe case, a portion of jawbone. Travesty!

Mycobacterium abscessus, like other water borne mycobacteria, thrive in water sources. If you recall my earlier mention of biofilm within the human body, then you know that mycobacteria colonize in this thick, sticky, hard to penetrate material. Dental offices are encouraged to sanitize their water lines with concise methods, following a frequent schedule.  For peace of mind, you could ask your dentist if their office uses chair side testing kits regularly to test for mycobacteria, if they follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for cleansing their dental units and/or if they have their water tested often. While infection from Mycobacterium abscessus seems less common in most dental offices, think of the effects that small percentage could have on children and adults with a genetic predisposition towards mycobacteria infection. My goal is not to scare you, but rather to make you aware of some of the sources of contamination to keep our children and us safe.

Another uncommon source of infectious, water borne bacteria is mycobacterium marinum, commonly referred to as fish tuberculosis. It has been suggested that Fish TB is not actually TB, rather the name is used due to its close bacterial relation to mycobacterium tuberculosis or human TB. Mycobacterium marinum causes skin infections when transferred to humans, through fresh and saltwater aquarium contact and ponds. Antibiotic treatment is recommended for humans and has been suggested to be ineffective in treating sick fish because once fish begin to show signs of abnormality, the disease has progressed past the stage of treating successfully. Transmission to humans is made through scrapes or open wounds on hands or fingers. If in contact with aquariums or ponds, perhaps wearing gloves which, at a minimum reach the elbows and using common sense caution may limit transmission from these sources, however these precautions are not guaranteed. From what I’ve researched, the risk of infection for humans is relatively small; it is relevant here though because those of us infected with MAP need to know this information in order to keep ourselves protected from other forms of mycobacterial related illnesses.

References:

Mycobacterium abscessus

Mycobacterium marinum

2 comments

Krista, you have put together a wonderful website. Your writing style is engaging, and easy to read. I am impressed with all the information it contains. You have been through too much already. Praying for a cure.

Through prayers and the dedicated efforts of researchers, physicians and microbiologists, we are getting closer to that goal!

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