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Clin Ophthalmol. 2014 May 2;8:837-42. doi: 10.2147/OPTH.S56670. eCollection 2014.

Recurrent nontuberculous mycobacterial endophthalmitis: a diagnostic conundrum.

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University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, USA.
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY, USA.
Flaum Eye Institute, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY, USA ; Center for Visual Science, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY, USA.



To report a case of recurrent nontuberculous mycobacterial endophthalmitis in the context of neurotrophic keratopathy secondary to herpes zoster ophthalmicus that had an atypical presentation and complex course, and highlights the challenges of causative organism identification and therapeutic interventions in this condition.


A retrospective chart review was conducted to determine the visual outcomes of the patient.


A 68-year-old pseudophakic male with long-standing neurotrophic keratopathy and perforated descemetocele managed with cyanoacrylate glue and a contact bandage lens in the left eye, began experiencing recurrent episodes of endophthalmitis after undergoing a penetrating keratoplasty. Several therapeutic procedures including an anterior chamber washout, two pars plana vitrectomies, explantation of the posterior chamber intraocular lens and capsular bag, and multiple intravitreal antimicrobial injections, were performed to which he has ultimately responded favorably, with no signs of infection to date and stable visual acuity. The causative organism of his recurrent infections was initially identified as Mycobacterium abscessus through biochemical testing and 16S ribosomal ribonucleic acid gene sequencing; however, repeat polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and sequencing of the 65 kDa heat shock protein (hsp65) gene for experimental purposes confirmed the accurate identification of the organism to be Mycobacterium chelonae. Given the greater reliability of PCR and sequencing of the hsp65 gene over traditional biochemical tests and culture techniques, M. chelonae was likely the infectious agent all along, and the organism was originally misidentified on the basis of less accurate tests.


Recurrent atypical mycobacterial endophthalmitis requires expedient identification and management to prevent poor visual outcomes. Standard biochemical testing can identify the causative organism but is limited by the inability to distinguish between nontuberculous species reliably. We recommend the use of PCR in conjunction with sequencing of the hsp65 gene for reliable differentiation of M. chelonae and M. abscessus in atypical mycobacterial ocular infections. Minimum inhibitory concentration antibiotic susceptibility tests on cultured strains are the best guide to antibiotic selection, given the rapidly rising resistance to antimicrobials in atypical mycobacterial species.


Mycobacterium chelonae; atypical mycobacteria; herpes zoster ophthalmicus; hsp65; neurotrophic keratopathy; visual outcome

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