Lack of adherence to evidence-based treatment guidelines for nontuberculous mycobacterial lung disease

Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2014 Jan;11(1):9-16. doi: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201304-085OC.


Rationale: The 2007 American Thoracic Society (ATS) and Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) recommend that patients with pulmonary nontuberculous mycobacterial (PNTM) disease caused by Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) or M. abscessus be treated with a macrolide-based multidrug antibiotic regimen until sputum culture negative for 1 year. After 6 years, the degree of adherence to recommended guidelines among physicians remains unknown.

Objective: To describe antibiotic treatment practices among physicians treating patients with PNTM in the United States.

Methods: A nationally representative sample of 1,286 U.S. physicians was contacted in December 2011 through January 2012; 582 of the responding physicians were treating patients with PNTM and were eligible to participate. Physicians were asked to extract medical record data on the last four patients they treated in the past year with PNTM disease from either MAC or M. abscessus. Treatment patterns were assessed for all patients by NTM species and physician specialty, and compared with the 2007 recommended ATS/IDSA guidelines.

Main results: Questionnaires were completed by 349 physicians on 915 patients with PNTM, including 744 (81%) with MAC and 174 (19%) with M. abscessus; 3 patients were positive for both. Physicians treated 76 (44%) patients with M. abscessus and 411 (55%) patients with MAC. Only 13% of antibiotic regimens prescribed to patients with MAC met ATS/IDSA guidelines, 56% did not include a macrolide, and 16% were for macrolide monotherapy. Among patients with M. abscessus, 64% of regimens prescribed did not include a macrolide.

Conclusions: Adherence to the 2007 ATS/IDSA guidelines for treating PNTM disease is poor. Across all physician specialties evaluated, suboptimal or potentially harmful antibiotic regimens were commonly prescribed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination / standards
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Family Practice / standards
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infectious Disease Medicine / standards
  • Internal Medicine / standards
  • Macrolides / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / drug therapy
  • Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare Infection / drug therapy*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pulmonary Medicine / standards
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / drug therapy*
  • United States
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Macrolides