The Changing Pattern of Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Disease
Falkinham, Joseph O
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Nontuberculous mycobacteria are human opportunistic pathogens whose source of infection is the environment. These include both slow-growing (eg, Mycobacterium kansasii and Mycobacterium avium) and rapid-growing (eg, Mycobacterium abscessus and Mycobacterium fortuitum) species. Transmission is through ingestion or inhalation of water, particulate matter or aerosols, or through trauma. The historic presentation of pulmonary disease in older individuals with predisposing lung conditions and in children has been changing. Pulmonary disease in elderly individuals who lack the classic predisposing lung conditions is increasing. Pulmonary disease and hypersensitivity pneumonitis have been linked with occupational or home exposures to nontuberculous mycobacteria. There has been a shift from Mycobacterium scrofulaceum to M avium in children with cervical lymphadenitis. Further, individuals who are immunosuppressed due to therapy or HIV-infection are at a greatly increased risk for nontuberculous mycobacterial infection. The changing pattern of nontuberculous mycobacterial disease is due in part to the ability of these pathogens to survive and proliferate in habitats that they share with humans, such as drinking water. The advent of an aging population and an increase in the proportion of immunosuppressed individuals suggest that the prevalence of nontuberculous mycobacterial disease will increase.