What is mycobacterial infections?

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Mycobacterial infections: Overview

Mycobacteria are germs that cause a wide variety of infections, including tuberculosis (TB), bone infections, abscesses, and a type of arthritis. They can infect the lungs, lymph nodes, skin, and other parts of the body. They can also infect open wounds.

Mycobacteria often infect people who have immune system problems. Depending on where the infection is in the body, some of the symptoms are fever, weight loss, diarrhea, abscesses (pockets of pus), and cough.

Mycobacterium avium complex

Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) is a group of bacteria, commonly found in soil or water. People who have immune system problems can be infected with the bacteria. It can spread throughout the body and cause infection almost anywhere.

Symptoms include:

  • Night sweats.
  • Fever.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Fatigue.
  • Weight loss.
  • Belly pain.

There is no easy way to avoid exposure to Mycobacterium avium complex bacteria. But medicines are available that can prevent disease.

How can you care for mycobacterial infections?

  • Take your antibiotics as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • You may need to take medicine for a long time, sometimes for a couple of years and sometimes for the rest of your life. It is very important that you take the medicine exactly as directed for as long as it takes to clear up your infection or keep you healthy.
  • Depending on where the infection is, you may need surgery. For example, abscesses can be drained. Talk to your doctor about whether surgery is right for you.

Mycobacterial infections: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have severe trouble breathing.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are short of breath.
  • You have a new or worse cough.
  • You have worse symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.
  • You are dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have new or worse diarrhea.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You lose weight.
  • You have night sweats.
  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.