Mycobacterium fortuitum and anaerobic breast abscess following nipple piercing: case presentation and review of the literature

J Adolesc Health. 2008 May;42(5):530-2. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2007.10.016. Epub 2008 Feb 7.


Purpose: Body piercing has become increasingly prevalent. We describe a case of breast infection with combined mycobacteria and anaerobe following nipple piercing, and review the literature.

Case: A 17-year-old female developed a breast abscess 4 months after nipple piercing. Cultures grew Prevotalla melangenica and Mycobacterium fortuitum. She required drainage and antibiotic treatment. Three months into her treatment she stopped her medications, relapsed, and required drainage. Two months later, on antimycobacteria therapy, her wound is healing.

Discussion: Review of the infectious complications of nipple piercing yielded 12 cases, 5 of which had a foreign body. The pathogens isolated (coagulase negative staphylococcus, mycobacteria, streptococcus, anaerobe, and gordonia) are not the usual organisms to be isolated from a breast abscess. This could result from reporting bias or the presence of a foreign body, the nipple ring. The three cases of mycobacteria, in addition to ours, are reviewed. The average age is 22 years. Three to 9 months elapsed between piercing and infection. All cases required drainage. Antimycobacteria therapy was used in three of the four cases for 10 days to 6 months.

Conclusion: With the increasing prevalence of body piercing, it is important to document and report infections. We describe a breast abscess following nipple piercing with combined anaerobic and a mycobacterial pathogens. This underscores the need for obtaining cultures including anaerobes and mycobacteria.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Abscess / microbiology*
  • Abscess / therapy
  • Adolescent
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bacteroidaceae Infections / etiology
  • Bacteroidaceae Infections / microbiology
  • Bacteroidaceae Infections / therapy
  • Body Piercing / adverse effects*
  • Breast Diseases / etiology*
  • Breast Diseases / microbiology
  • Breast Diseases / therapy
  • Drainage
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / etiology*
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / microbiology
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / therapy
  • Mycobacterium fortuitum / isolation & purification*
  • Prevotella melaninogenica / isolation & purification


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents