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Volume 14, Number 3—March 2008

News and Notes

Etymologia: Mycobacterium

Suggested citation for this article


From the Greek—myces (fungus) and baktērion (little rod)

The only genus of bacteria in the family Mycobacteriaceae. In 1882, German scientist Robert Koch reported the discovery of a bacillus from the lung tubercles that caused tuberculosis. Earlier, Norwegian researcher G.H.A. Hansen had identified a similar microbe which caused leprosy. In 1896, the genus name Mycobacterium, from the Middle Latin noun meaning fungus rodlet, was proposed to include these new pathogens, M. tuberculosis and M. leprae. The name does not mean that mycobacteria are fungi; rather, the tubercle bacilli grow on the surface of liquid media as moldlike pellicles when cultured. The nomotile, acid-fast, aerobic organisms in this genus cause numerous human and animal diseases.

Sources: Savin JA, Wilkinson DS. Mycobacterial infections including tuberculosis. In: Rook A, Wilkinson DS, Ebling FJG, Champion RH, Burton JL, editors. Textbook of dermatology. Vol.1, 4th ed. Boston: Blackwell Scientific Publications; 1986. p. 791–822. Goodfellow M, Magee JG. Taxonomy of mycobacteria. In: Mycobacteria: basic aspects. Gangadharam PRJ, Jenkins PA, editors. Boca Raton (FL): Chapman & Hall; 1998. p.1. Wayne LG. The “atypical” mycobacteria: recognition and disease association. CRC Crit Rev Microbiol. 1985;12:185–222.

Suggested Citation for this article: Etymologia: Mycobacterium. Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2008, Mar [date cited].

DOI: 10.3201/eid1403.ET1403

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