Nontuberculous mycobacteria: the changing epidemiology and treatment challenges in cystic fibrosis

Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2013 Nov;19(6):662-9. doi: 10.1097/MCP.0b013e328365ab33.


Purpose of review: Although patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) face numerous infectious pathogens over the course of their lifespan, increasing attention has recently been paid to nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM). As reported prevalence rates rise across many countries such as the United States, the ability to recognize disease caused by NTM and subsequently treat such disease has become increasingly important. This review summarizes new observations on the epidemiology of NTM in CF as well as key elements to consider during the treatment phase.

Recent findings: Although overall rates of NTM isolation appear to be increasing, particular concern has focused on the emerging predominance of Mycobacterium abscessus. New data suggest that chronic macrolide therapy now part of routine CF care has contributed to this rise; however, these have yet to be confirmed prospectively. Transmission of M. abscessus between CF patients has also now been described through the use of genome sequencing. Although the greater virulence of M. abscessus makes it a challenging species to treat, identification of the subspecies type can now determine the presence of inducible macrolide resistance, thereby helping to guide treatment.

Summary: Given increasing prevalence rates, clinicians should maintain a high level of suspicion for NTM as disease-causing organisms in CF, particularly for M. abscessus. New knowledge regarding this species, however, can help to tailor appropriate therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cystic Fibrosis / complications
  • Cystic Fibrosis / drug therapy
  • Cystic Fibrosis / microbiology*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / mortality
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Macrolides / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / drug therapy
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / microbiology*
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / mortality
  • Nontuberculous Mycobacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Prevalence
  • Sputum / microbiology*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Macrolides