Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) is ubiquitous throughout the world. It is an opportunistic pathogen in AIDS patients but the number of cases in HIV negative patients is also increasing. The aim of this study was to determine whether patients were being infected with different MAC strains or whether one strain was dominant. DNA obtained from isolates in Brazil and England were compared using pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Strains from 22 Brazilian patients clustered into 7 groups but 68/90 patients had a unique strain. In all patients, Brazilian and English, the same strain was isolated repeatedly over time, some over several years. This study shows that it is most likely that Man is infected from the environment and that one strain can survive without change for many years both in the environment and in Man.
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