Deadly Disease: Mycobacterium Marinum

Mycobacterium marinum (also known as freshwater infection, saltwater infection, marine bacteria and water-borne bacteria) is a bacterium that is able to infect humans and cause significant harm. It is now thought that all fish species are susceptible to mycobacterium marinum, this means that people working or handling fish are at the greatest risk. The bacterium can only get into the body if there is a cut at the skin, if someone handles fish with cuts on their hands this gives the bacterium the window of opportunity it needs.

The people at the highest risk of contracting such a pathogen are as follows:

1) Fishermen and people working saltwater fish

2) Marine biologists

3) Divers who stay under water for extended periods of time

4) People who swim in the sea on a regular basis

5) People who have an aquarium at home

6) People who clean aquariums and other water bodies where fish inhabit

7) People who have a suppressed immune system

A common sign that someone has contracted mycobacterium marinum is a nodule (a prominent bump) on the hands, fingers, wrists, toes, feet or ankles. The nodules will get larger as time goes on forming ulcers on the skin which will cause agonising pain. The temperature of 37 degrees Celsius hinders the growth and population expansion of mycobacterium marinum significantly; this means the pathogen can only inhabit the cooler regions of the body such as the hands and feet. To combat the infection the body produces white blood cells which attempt to engulf (ingest) the invading bacteria, however they are able to withstand the attack and thus kill the white blood cells in the process.

Mycobacterium marinum

The bacteria will then slowly, but surely creep their way to the bone, if treatment does not take place quickly amputation maybe the only way to get rid of such of pathogen. In some cases the hands or feet are not amputated, instead the infected tissue and bone are cut out, however this leaves the person with permanent neurological damage for life). The bacterium is highly resistant to microbial drugs so powerful antibiotics must be taken in order to kill it swiftly and effectively. The antibiotics should be taken for 10 weeks possibly longer depending on how long it took to diagnose the disease.

The antibiotics that could be taken include:

1) Clarithromycin

2) Fluoroquinolones

3) Tetracyclines

4) Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole

Precautions need to be taken in order to insure that people do not contract mycobacterium marinum, these include:

1) Avoid getting in contact with fresh or saltwater if there are cuts on the hands.

2) Do not handle fish if you skin scratches.

3) When cleaning an aquarium make sure that you wear gloves if there are any cuts.

4) Make sure that swimming pools have an adequate amount of chlorine.

Although reports of this disease are rare across the planet, it is nonetheless a very serious disease if you contract it. It is easy to prevent this disease by taking a few simple precautions (as mentioned above).

Thank you for reading.