Something's Fishy


At a carnival in seventh grade, my at-the-time boyfriend won me a fish. It was at one of those games where you have to throw the ping pong ball into the fish bowls- the more balls you got in, the bigger the fish you received. After spending a ridiculous amount of money, he won me Chloe. Much to my dismay, however, Chloe long outlived our relationship (no surprise). In fact, Chloe lived to the ripe old age of three... that's practically a millennia in carny goldfish years. But when Chloe went down, she took me down with her.

For the last couple months of her life, I had a really hard time keeping Chloe's tank clean. So, one afternoon, after noticing it couldn't go another day, I went into my bathroom and cleaned her tank. This is when the story starts to go downhill. Within a day or two, I notice a little pimple on my leg- except it wasn't a pimple. As the days passed and it worsened and worsened, turning from a pimple to a gaping wound. We went to the doctors and the ER- both of whom diagnosed me with cellulitis. But the antibiotics didn't work, and  it got to the point where I couldn't walk anymore.

What it actually turned out to be was an infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium marinum, more commonly known as  fish tank granuloma (or swimming pool granuloma). This infection is commonly misdiagnosed, and mycobacterial  can cause lung diseases, leprosy, and skin infections.  Previously, treatment has been difficult because  the bacteria is resistant to many antibiotics. In the study " Fish Tank Exposure and Cutaneous Infections Due to Mycobacterium marinum: Tuberculin Skin Testing, Treatment, and Prevention" in Oxford Journals,  8 patiends with the infection were studied and tested for their response to antibiotics. They found that "six patients with disease limited to the skin were successfully treated with 2-drug combination therapy, including clarithromycin, ethambutol, and rifampin. Optimal treatment should include 2 drugs for 1-2 months after resolution of lesions, typically 3-4 months in total." Click here for more info on the bacteria.

So, although this infection can be antibiotic resistant and seems to respond well to clarithromycin, ethambutol, and rifampin, like a lot of infections, response depends highly on each person.

Moral of the story? Be carefeul the next time you decide to clean the fish tank.




Okay so after reading this I decided I'm never going to let my children own a fish. I had them when I was younger but I never knew that you could get a bacteria from cleaning the tank. I wonder if it differs depending on what type of tank you have. Like if it's a tank with a filter are you less likely to get a bacteria than if it's just a typical fishbowl?

Wow, how long did it take you to recover? I've never heard of this, did the doctor say how common it is?

I'm unclear on how this all went down! So was it because you weren't keeping the tank clean..the quality of the fish (carny quality)..or what? This sounds pretty scary!

Do you have any scarring? Or did the antibiotics totally clear you up?

I wonder how people who work in aquariums and with fish and other salt water creatures protect themselves from this disease. The best protection I read about was simply to use gloves, and wash hands, or just avoid contact all together. this is the website I found that info on:

wow I have never heard of this in my life. Who knew that such a small creature could in fact impair you. I wonder what it was specifically that was in her tank, possibly a fungus? I also want to know how it internally entered your body because every time I clean a fish tank it just gets on my hands. I looked online and found that another girl had a very similar story to you, but she had a flesh eating bacteria from the fish tank that eventually spread to her bones. It is crazy that this small fish could cause such internal problems. To read more about her story check the link below!

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