An outbreak of Mycobacterium chelonae infections in tattoos

Lisa A. Drage, Phillip M. Ecker, Robert Orenstein, P. Kim Phillips, Randall S. Edson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Nontuberculous mycobacteria infections may occur after cutaneous procedures. Review of the medical records of patients who developed a rash within a tattoo revealed 6 patients with skin infections caused by Mycobacterium chelonae after receiving tattoos by one artist at a single tattoo establishment. The interval between tattoo placement and the skin findings was 1 to 2 weeks. All patients received alternate diagnoses before mycobacterial infection was identified. Skin findings included pink, red, or purple papules; papules with scale; pustules; granulomatous papules; and lichenoid papules and plaques. Histopathologic examination revealed granuloma, lymphohistiocytic infiltrate, or mixed inflammation; acid-fast bacilli stains produced negative results. Diagnosis was made by culture in 3 patients, histopathology in two patients, and clinical/epidemiologic association in one patient. The M chelonae isolates were clarithromycin susceptible, and the infections responded to macrolide antibiotics. Physicians should consider mycobacterial infections in patients with skin findings within a new tattoo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)501-506
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Dermatology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Mycobacterium chelonae
  • atypical mycobacteria
  • nontuberculous mycobacteria
  • rapidly growing mycobacteria
  • skin and soft tissue infection
  • tattoo complication
  • tattoo infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology


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