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Mycobacteria

Comprehensive Testing for Identification and Susceptibility




Updated: July 2014
Published: May 2013

What are Mycobacteria?

Mycobacteria are a genera of bacteria with a unique cell wall structure which makes them resistant to drying, disinfectants, UV light, and many antibacterial agents. There are approximately 160 species of mycobacteria, some of which have extremely slow growth rates (12 to 24 hour generation time), therefore they may require up to 6 weeks for growth in a culture.

Mycobacteria are grouped into 2 major categories:

  • Tuberculosis
  • Non-Tuberculosis Mycobacteria (NTM), which include:
    • Slowly growing NTM
    • Rapidly growing NTM

Complicating the picture even further are aerobic actinomycetes, like Nocardia species, which are a class of aerobic bacteria that share many overlapping characteristics with mycobacteria and therefore, must be considered for patients with suspected mycobacterial disease. Furthermore, different groups of mycobacteria are susceptible to different antimycobacterial agents, so it is imperative to identify the organism correctly in order to prescribe the proper drug regimen.

Identification and Treatment of Mycobacteria

Successful identification and, ultimately, treatment of mycobacteria is guided by the answers to 3 essential questions:


Mayo Medical Laboratories offers unparalleled depth and breadth in identification and susceptibility testing for mycobacteria and aerobic actinomycetes. In order to complement your organization’s existing capabilities, Mayo Medical Laboratories services are available at any stage of the testing process.


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