What is mycobacterium chelonae infection?

Updated: Dec 20, 2018
  • Author: Alfred Scott Lea, MD; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Mycobacterium chelonae belongs to the family of nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) classified in the rapidly growing mycobacteria (RGM), Runyon group IV that are nonpigmented. RGM typically show visible colonies on solid growth media within 1 week. [1] M chelonae is further grouped in the M chelonae-abscessus group that encompasses Mycobacterium immunogenum, Mycobacterium massiliense, and Mycobacterium bolletii, in addition to M chelonae and M abscessus.

In 1992, M chelonae became its own species based on previous genomic studies. [2, 3] Hence, when researching and reviewing the literature prior to 1992, M abscessus and M chelonae were considered the same organism or subspecies within the M chelonae-abscessus group, which complicated its taxonomy. In addition, further identification of the newer species M massiliense and M bolletii and the proper taxonomy surrounding these 2 species and others cause the taxonomy of this group to be a dynamic process. [4, 5]

M chelonae, along with M abscessus, are considered the most drug resistant of the NTM group, which leads to difficulty when treating infections these organisms. It is important to establish that M chelonae is the pathogen causing a particular infection . The severity of disease and the patient’s underlying medical condition also influence therapy. M chelonae tends to respond better to treatment regimens since is lacks the erm gene that confers macrolide resistance in M abscessus strains. [6] Most information about treatment recommendations are based upon in vitro laboratory observations, clinical anecdotes, retrospective observational series, and expert opinion. Optimal therapeutic interventions and their duration, as well as outcomes data, are not firmly established based upon large, controlled, evidence-based experimental studies.

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