Mycobacterium tuberculosis, from the family Mycobacteriaceae, is one of approximately 190 known species in the phylum Actinobacteria. The prefix "myco" means fungus in the Greek language, and was chosen because mycobacteria on surface cultures look very similar to fungi. M. tuberculosis has wreaked havoc on humanity for centuries. Examinations of bones and other evidence show this bacteria existed around the world at least 4,000 years ago. Mycobacterium tuberculosis is the bacteria responsible for tuberculosis. It causes nine million cases of tuberculosis or TB and one million deaths every year.
Mycobacteria have a bacillary form and look like straight or slightly curved rods. This family of bacteria also forms capsules, large structures surrounding the bacteria outside of the cell wall. Capsules contain amorphous viscid, a substance that may diffuse into the area around the bacterial cell. When this diffusion takes place, the resulting slime layer can cause illness. Together, the capsule and slime layer create a glycocalyx.
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