Background: Rapidly growing mycobacteria (RGM) can cause a variety of cutaneous and systemic diseases. The causative organisms are typically Mycobacterium fortuitum or Mycobacterium chelonae (also known as Mycobacterium abscessus). Primary cutaneous lesions may develop after a variable latent period, from weeks to several months, and usually result from direct inoculation after trauma, from injections, or during surgery via contaminated medical instruments. Recently, investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Ga, and the California Department of Health Services, Berkeley, documented a large, unprecedented outbreak of community-acquired RGM infection, during which more than 100 patrons of a northern California nail salon contracted furunculosis in their legs as a result of exposure to whirlpool footbaths that were contaminated with M fortuitum. Observations: We report the clinical and epidemiological findings in 3 cases of lower extremity RGM infections that occurred after similar whirlpool foot-bath exposure at several different nail salons in southern California. These infections typically presented as recurrent furunculosis, causing considerable morbidity as a result of scarring, delayed diagnosis, and the need for long-term polymicrobial therapy. Conclusions: Rapidly growing mycobacterial infections related to pedicures may continue to occur in a sporadic fashion. Clinicians should consider the possibility of RGM infection and inquire about recent pedicures in a patient with recurrent lower extremity furunculosis and abscesses that are unresponsive to conventional antibiotic therapy.
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