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Mycobacterium Avium Infection

What is a Mycobacterium Avium Infection?

A Mycobacterium avium infection is a rare condition caused by a group of bacteria collectively known as the Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC). The infection commonly occurs in the lungs and the lymph nodes of the neck and maybe disseminated throughout the body.

Causes of Mycobacterium Avium Infection

The MAC bacteria causing the infections are generally found in many places including water, household dust, and soil. MAC bacteria enter the body when the bacteria are inhaled or swallowed. Most people may have MAC bacteria in their bodies and never get sick as the bacteria primarily causes illness in people with poor immune systems or pre-existing lung disorders. Generally, MAC infections are not considered contagious through normal social interaction.

Symptoms of Mycobacterium Avium Infection

Signs and symptoms of a Mycobacterium avium infection include:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Anemia

Diagnosis of Mycobacterium Avium Infection

The doctor will evaluate your symptoms and medical history and conduct a physical examination to obtain a preliminary diagnosis. In addition, your doctor may order lab tests to confirm the presence of MAC bacteria. These tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Sputum test
  • Bone marrow test
  • Tissue test

Treatment for Mycobacterium Avium Infection

The treatment method varies depending on the severity of your infection. Generally, a combination of antibiotics is given so that your body does not become resistant to any one drug. After the infection is under control, you will continue treatment for about 12 months. Medications that are used in the treatment of Mycobacterium avium infections include:

  • Clarithromycin
  • Azithromycin
  • Ethambutol
  • Amikacin
  • Moxifloxacin
  • Rifabutin 
  • Rifampin

Side-effects of Mycobacterium Avium Infection Treatment

Side-effects of these medications can include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Swelling of the eye with pain, redness, and light sensitivity
  • Anemia
  • Hearing Loss
  • Rash and itching
  • Numbness in feet