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Cornea. 2012 Aug;31(8):900-6. doi: 10.1097/ICO.0b013e31823f8bb9.

Antimicrobial susceptibility of nontuberculous mycobacteria from eye infections.

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Department of Microbiology, Mycobacteria/Nocardia Research Laboratory, The University of Texas Health Science Center, Tyler, TX 75708, USA.



To characterize formerly designated atypical or nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) associated with eye infections.


All clinical NTM eye isolates (112 isolates from 100 patients) submitted to a single national NTM reference laboratory between 1982 and 2009 were identified using polymerase chain reaction and restriction fragment length polymorphism of the hsp65 gene. Isolates were tested against 10 antimicrobials, including besifloxacin, a new 8-chloro-fluoroquinolone. Assessments included species of NTM recovered, year of isolation, type of eye infection, geographic location, and drug susceptibilities.


In the 1980s, the major pathogen isolated was Mycobacterium abscessus. In the 1990 s, Mycobacterium chelonae emerged as the major pathogen. By 2000, it was responsible for more than 50% of all cases. The majority of M. abscessus and Mycobacterium fortuitum were from southern coastal states and Texas, whereas M. chelonae isolates were more widespread geographically. The most active antimicrobials were amikacin and clarithromycin/azithromycin for M. abscessus and clarithromycin/azithromycin, amikacin, and tobramycin, and the quinolones for M. chelonae.


This is the largest study of NTM ophthalmic isolates to date and is the first to include susceptibilities and molecular identification for all isolates studied. This series establishes M. chelonae (44%) and M. abscessus (37%) as the NTM species most frequently associated with ophthalmic infections. Topical ophthalmic fluoroquinolones may have a role in the management of ocular infections involving M. chelonae and M. fortuitum.

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