Mycobacterium intracellulare

Mycobacterium intracellulare is a Gram-positive, immobile rod-shaped bacterium. Together with Mycobacterium avium, it belongs to the Mycobacterium avium-complex (MAC) as well as to the group of non‐tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM).

Mycobacterium intracellulare causes diseases similar to tuberculosis. Disease patterns include:

  • (Chronic) lung infections

  • Lymphadenitis (inflammation of the lymph nodes)

  • Nephritis (inflammation of the kidney)

  • Lady Windermere syndrome (lung infection affecting the right middle lobe in elderly women)

Mycobacterium intracellulare is ubiquitous in the environment (in the soil and water). The bacteria are able to form biofilms.

Relevance of pathogen in transmission in endoscopy

  • Gastroenterology: Not relevant

  • Pulmonology: High

  • Ear, nose, and throat: Not relevant

  • Urology: Not relevant

Relevance for endoscope surveillance

  • Low or moderate concern organism

Transmission route

Mycobacterium intracellulare can be transmitted via inhalation as well as via contaminated water or food.

The pathogens can also be spread and transmitted through water in healthcare facilities. The water used for final rinsing of endoscopes must therefore be microbiologically controlled to prevent a recontamination of the endoscope.

Resistance to antibiotics

Mycobacterium intracellulare is resistant to isoniazid, ethambutol, and streptomycin.

Sources and further readings

  1. Collins FM Bactericidal activity of alkaline glutaraldehyde solution against a number of atypical mycobacterial species, J Appl Bacteriol. 1986 Sep;61(3):247-51.

  2. Gries O, Ly T: Infektologie – Kompendium humanpathogener Infektionskrankheiten und Erreger, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2019.

  3. Kovaleva J et al. Transmission of infection by flexible gastrointestinal endoscopy and bronchoscopy, Clin Microbiol Rev. 2013 Apr;26(2):231-54.

  4. Mycobacterium intracellulare. ScienceDirect. Accessed on 08.04.2021.