Nontuberculous mycobacterial pulmonary infections in non-HIV patients

Scott C. Parrish, Janet Myers, Angeline Lazarus*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) are ubiquitous organisms with nearly 100 different species found in soil and water. The fatty-acid and wax-rich impermeable cell wall of the mycobacteria allow for adherence to solid substrates such as pipes and leaves, allowing the organism to persist despite treatment with common disinfectants. Mycobacteria can cause infection in both humans and animals. It is difficult to assess the incidence or prevalence of NTM disease due to multiple factors. Nontuberculous mycobacteria infection may be difficult to differentiate from colonization, and when NTM infection is diagnosed, it is not a reportable disease. Furthermore, some species such as Mycobacterium gordonae may be a contaminant. Nontuberculous mycobacteria infection is not a communicable disease, although health care-associated outbreaks have been reported, associated with a single facility or procedure. While the nontuberculous infection may affect other organs, the most common site is the lung, and the most common species is Mycobacterium avium complex, commonly referred to as MAC infection. An increasing occurrence of MAC has been reported, especially in certain populations such as middle-aged or elderly thin women, patients with chronic lung disease, human immunodeficiency virus infection, and cystic fibrosis. An association of NTM infection with gastroesophageal reflux disease has also been noted. The clinical presentation often includes chronic productive cough. Other less common symptoms include dyspnea and hemoptysis. With increased use of computed tomography and high-resolution computed tomography, patterns of MAC pulmonary infection have been described. Recently, the American Thoracic Society has outlined guidelines for the diagnosis and management of NTM infection. Treatment of NTM infection requires at least 3 effective drugs for a minimum of 12 months after sputum conversion to negative cultures. Surgical therapy may be considered for localized disease which has failed medical management. In this article, the clinical presentation, radiographic features, diagnostic evaluation, and management are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-86
Number of pages9
JournalPostgraduate Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Cystic fibrosis
  • High-resolution computed tomography
  • Mycobacterium avium complex
  • Nontuberculous mycobacteria
  • Rapidly growing mycobacteria


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