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March 1987

Recent Clinical Advances in Knowledge of the Nonleprous Environmental Mycobacteria Responsible for Cutaneous Disease

Arch Dermatol. 1987;123(3):337-339. doi:10.1001/archderm.1987.01660270075018

In my day, no topic was more deadly or more certain of putting house staff to sleep than talks on the classification of the environmental (formerly atypical) mycobacteria. Those students who managed to stay awake were left to ponder a confusing array of organisms of little importance to the average clinician. Fortunately for the practicing clinician and the academician, the need to remember the basics of this schema are probably less than they were then. Unfortunately, however, the organisms themselves have unquestionably become much more important and much more commonly recognized as agents of human disease. Knowledge of disease patterns, taxonomy, and drugs for therapy of the nonleprous cutaneous mycobacteria have all changed significantly in the last few years.

The group of organisms that have undergone the greatest change has been the rapidly growing mycobacteria. These organisms are, by definition, organisms that grow to visible