Diffuse pulmonary disease caused by nontuberculous mycobacteria in immunocompetent people (hot tub lung)

Am J Clin Pathol. 2001 May;115(5):755-62. doi: 10.1309/JRDC-0MJV-ACA3-2U9L.


The clinicopathologic spectrum of infections due to nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) includes cavitary disease, opportunistic infection, and nodular disease associated with bronchiectasis. We report a less well-described manifestation of NTM infection: 10 immunocompetent patients without preexisting bronchiectasis had radiographic evidence of diffuse infiltrative lung disease. The most common symptoms were dyspnea, cough, hypoxia, and fever. All 10 patients had used a hot tub. Histologic examination revealed exuberant nonnecrotizing, frequently bronchiolocentric, granulomatous inflammation in all cases. In 1 case, necrotizing granulomas were also noted. The inflammation often was associated with patchy chronic interstitial pneumonia and organization. Cultures revealed NTM in all cases (Mycobacterium avium complex in all but 1 case), but staining for acid-fast bacilli was positive in only 1 case. Four patients received corticosteroids alone for presumed hypersensitivity pneumonia, 4 were treated with antimycobacterial therapy, and 2 received both. All patients demonstrated significant improvement at the time of follow-up. These findings suggest that disease due to NTM may manifest as diffuse infiltrates in immunocompetent adults and that hot tub use may be an important risk factor for this disease pattern.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alveolitis, Extrinsic Allergic / diagnosis
  • Baths
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Granuloma, Respiratory Tract / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Immunocompetence
  • Immunocompromised Host*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mycobacterium avium Complex / isolation & purification*
  • Mycobacterium avium Complex / pathogenicity
  • Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare Infection / drug therapy
  • Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare Infection / microbiology*
  • Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare Infection / pathology
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / drug therapy
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / microbiology*
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / pathology
  • Sarcoidosis / diagnosis
  • Water Microbiology*


  • Glucocorticoids