Mycobacterium marinum can cause systemic infection in fishes and skin infection in humans. Most strains grow better at <37 degrees C, which can explain the rarity of infections in humans. The ability of strains from humans and fish to grow in various conditions, and in macrophages from carp, humans, and mouse was evaluated, as was the ability of the three fish isolates to infect mice. Significant differences of growth in vitro and in vivo were observed. All fish strains caused both footpad and deep tissue infections, and two, which grew very poorly or not all at 37 degrees C, proliferated in mammalian macrophages.