REVIEW PAPER
The Mycobacterium avium complex – an underestimated threat to humans and animals
 
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1
Department of Food Hygiene and Public Health Protection, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Life Sciences, Warsaw, Poland
2
Department of Preclinical Sciences, Institute of Veterinary Medicine, University of Life Sciences, Warsaw, Poland
CORRESPONDING AUTHOR
Aleksandra Kaczmarkowska   

Department of Food Hygiene and Public Health Protection, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Nowoursynowska 159, 02-776, Warsaw, Poland
 
 
KEYWORDS
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ABSTRACT
Introduction and objective:
The Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) is a group of acid-resistant bacteria within the Mycobacteriaceae. Their cell walls have a specific structure impervious to many disinfectants. Mycobacteria are widespread in the environment and can also be found in food. This aim of the article is to review the current state of knowledge about the sources of infection, symptoms and treatment of MAC diseases in humans and animals, and summarizes the available methods for identifying the bacteria. It pays a special attention to the zoonotic potential of MAC bacteria and possible routes of transmission between humans and animals, including possible food-borne routes.

Brief description of the state of knowledge.:
MAC bacterial infections occur both in immunocompetent people and those with functional predispositions and compromised immunity, particularly during HIV infection or immunosuppressive treatment. The incidence of MAC infections in humans is growing, with the most common form of infection being pulmonary disease (MTC-PD); however, there are conflicting reports on the role of Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis (MAP) in the development of Crohn’s disease. MAC bacteria can also attack livestock, household pets, and wild animals. Unfortunately, treatment is lengthy and often fails due to microbiological relapse; there is also increasing evidence of MAC bacteria are developing multi-drug resistance.

Conclusions:
Although new antibiotics are being created to inhibit the growth and division of Mycobacterium avium, there is clearly a need for further research into the virulence factors associated with MAC bacteria. Further studies should also examine the role of MAP in the etiopathogenesis of Crohn’s disease.

 
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