The non-specific clinical findings and variable histopathological features of cutaneous tuberculosis and non-tuberculous mycobacterial infections often make it difficult to establish a diagnosis and initiate appropriate therapy. We investigated 25 patients diagnosed with mycobacterial infections of the skin in Hanyang University Hospital between 2001 and 2011. Skin biopsy specimens were re-evaluated by various histopathological criteria and molecular studies. To identify the mycobacteria, we performed staining for acid-fast bacilli and also completed polymerase chain reaction analysis. The non-tuberculous mycobacterium species were identified by genetic sequencing of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissues. Immunocompromised status was more frequent in non-tuberculous mycobacterial infections than in tuberculosis (p = 0.017) while disease duration was longer in tuberculosis (p = 0.026). Microscopically, neutrophil infiltration, interstitial granuloma, small vessel proliferation and increased numbers of bacilli were found to be associated with non-tuberculous mycobacterial infections (all p < 0.05). In contrast, giant cells, plasma cells, tuberculoid granulomas and necrosis were associated with tuberculosis (all p < 0.05). There were no species-specific histopathological findings in non-tuberculous mycobacterial infections. The significant histopathological differences between cutaneous tuberculous and non-tuberculous mycobacterial infections are helpful in considering differential diagnoses. In addition, molecular techniques together with clinico-pathological findings may assist in making accurate diagnoses of cutaneous non-tuberculous mycobacterial infections.
Min K-W, Ko JY, Park CK. Histopathological spectrum of cutaneous tuberculosis and non-tuberculous mycobacterial infections.