The Genus Mycobacteria

Authored by: Salman H. Siddiqi

Practical Handbook of Microbiology

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  June  2015

Print ISBN: 9781466587397
eBook ISBN: 9781466587403
Adobe ISBN:


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Mycobacteria belong to the family Mycobacteriaceae. These organisms are characterized by possessing elevated lipid content, most notably a high level of waxes called mycolic acids [1]. Mycolic acid contents vary among different species of mycobacteria. These mycolic acids are responsible for the organism being resistant to decolorization by acid alcohols during staining of these bacteria by Ziehl–Neelsen (ZN) staining method. These cells are referred to as being acid-fast bacteria (AFB). This staining test is often the first test performed on a clinical specimen from a suspected case. This test is also used to determine if the patient is potentially infectious. Especially in the tuberculosis-endemic areas, the smear result is considered diagnostic. Any patient with an acid-fast-positive smear would be considered potentially infectious and would require patient isolation.

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