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Introduction to Mycobacteria

By Dylan Tierney, MD, Harvard Medical School;Brigham and Women's Hospital ; Edward A. Nardell, MD, Harvard Medical School, Departments of Medicine, Social, and Global Health;Brigham & Women's Hospital, Div. of Global Health Equity

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Mycobacteria are small, slow-growing, aerobic bacilli. They are distinguished by a complex, lipid-rich cell envelope responsible for their characterization as acid-fast (ie, resistant to decolorization by acid after staining with carbolfuchsin) and their relative resistance to Gram stain. The most common mycobacterial infection is tuberculosis; others include leprosy and various diseases caused by Mycobacterium avium complex.

* This is the Professional Version. *