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 six weeks for growth in a culture.
Mycobacteria are grouped into two major categories:
- 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.
Click here for a full overview of Mayo Medical Laboratories' mycobacteria testing.