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Outbreak of non-tuberculous mycobacteria skin or soft tissue infections associated with handling fish – New York City, 2013–2014

  • K. YACISIN (a1) (a2), J. L. HSIEH (a1), D. WEISS (a1), J. ACKELSBERG (a1), E. LEE (a1), L. JONES (a1), Y. L. LEUNG (a1), L. LI (a1), J. YUNG (a1), S. SLAVINSKI (a1), H. HANSON (a1), A. RIDPATH (a1) (a2), J. KORNBLUM (a1), Y. LIN (a1), S. ROBBE-AUSTERMAN (a3), J. RAKEMAN (a1), U. SIEMETZKI-KAPOOR (a1), T. STUBER (a3) and S. K. GREENE (a1)...

Mycobacterium marinum, a bacterium found in freshwater and saltwater, can infect persons with direct exposure to fish or aquariums. During December 2013, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene learned of four suspected or confirmed M. marinum skin or soft tissue infections (SSTIs) among persons who purchased whole fish from Chinese markets. Ninety-eight case-patients with non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) SSTIs were identified with onset June 2013–March 2014. Of these, 77 (79%) were female. The median age was 62 years (range 30–91). Whole genome sequencing of clinical isolates revealed two main clusters and marked genetic diversity. Environmental samples from distributors yielded NTM though not M. marinum. We compared 56 case-patients with 185 control subjects who shopped in Chinese markets, frequency-matched by age group and sex. Risk factors for infection included skin injury to the finger or hand (odds ratio [OR]: 15·5; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 6·9–37·3), hand injury while preparing fish or seafood (OR 8·3; 95% CI 3·8–19·1), and purchasing tilapia (OR 3·6; 95% CI 1·1–13·9) or whiting (OR 2·7; 95% CI 1·1–6·6). A definitive environmental outbreak source was not identified.

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*Author for correspondence: K. Yacisin, 3311 Toledo Rd, Hyattsville, MD 20782, USA. (Email:
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