The atypical mycobacteria organisms are categorized by their growth rate on culture media and the presence of pigment. The most commonly encountered is the M. avium complex (MAC), which includes two organisms, M. avium and M. intracellulare. Table 1 lists the most commonly encountered organisms in the head and neck area. Atypical mycobacteria can cause pulmonary disease, disseminated infection in advanced immunosuppression or HIV infection, bone involvement, and lymphadenitis. The mode of transmission is usually via ingestion of contaminated water or food by fomites or rarely by direct inoculation.

TABLE 1 Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Head and Neck Pathogens

Mycobacterium avium

Mycobacterium tusciae

Mycobacterium intracellulare

Mycobacterium palustre

Mycobacterium bohemicum

Mycobacterium interjectum

Mycobacterium kansasii

Mycobacterium elephantis

Mycobacterium chelonei

Mycobacterium heidelbergense

Mycobacterium malmoense

Mycobacterium porcinum

Mycobacterium fortuitum

Mycobacterium smegmatis

Mycobacterium marinum

Mycobacterium genavense

Mycobacterium genovense

Mycobacterium lacus

Mycobacterium scrofulaceum

Mycobacterium novocastrense

Mycobacterium haemophilum

Mycobacterium houstonense

Mycobacterium simiae

Mycobacterium goodie

Mycobacterium abscessus

Mycobacterium immunogenum

Mycobacterium lentiflavum

Mycobacterium mageritense

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